WASHINGTON, D.C. –Last week, U.S. Representatives Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-Del.), Tony Cárdenas (D-Calif.), and Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.) introduced the Behavioral Health Crisis Services Expansion Act. 

Millions of Americans are struggling with worsening mental health. Severe major depression, suicide, and anxiety are on the rise, with one in five adults and one in six young Americans experiencing the effects of mental illness annually.

The legislation offers a suite of policies to give communities the tools they need to develop a continuum of behavioral health crisis services with the objective of stabilizing individuals and engaging them in appropriate continuing treatment to address the problem that led to the crisis. 

“The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed disparities within the continuum of mental health services across the country,” said Rep. Fitzpatrick. “It is past time we address our nation’s mental health crisis. That is why I am proud to support the Behavioral Health Crisis Services Expansion Act, which will provide communities with the necessary tools to expand access to behavioral health crisis services for those who need it most.”

“We know that the mental health crisis across our country has only worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic. With increased isolation, stress, and anxiety, millions of Americans have faced down increasingly serious mental health challenges without the support they need,” said Rep. Blunt Rochester. “It’s time that the American health care system treats mental health with the same seriousness we treat physical health. That’s why I’m proud to introduce this bipartisan bill which gives communities the tools they need to provide top-notch mental health services to individuals across the country.”

“Last year, Congress recognized the importance of mental health and approved 988 as a nationwide calling code for mental health emergencies, which will go live in July 2022. This legislation will ensure that when Americans experiencing a mental health crisis call 988 for help, resources are available to be dispatched to aid them,” said Rep. Cárdenas. “It’s about time that we connect individuals and families experiencing a mental health crisis with professionals specifically trained for the job.”

“As the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated, increasing access to mental health services – including crisis care – has become fundamental for Southwest Washington residents. In order to address the rising number of mental health challenges, we need to have an adequate continuum of care to stabilize and treat individuals in crisis,” said Rep. Herrera Beutler.  “I’m proud to help lead this bipartisan legislation to help meet this profound need and ensure communities are able to respond to behavioral health emergencies and provide folks in Southwest Washington access to the services they need.”

“The National Association of Mental Health Program Directors (NASMHPD) greatly supports the introduction of the Behavioral Health Crisis Services Expansion Act as this will be key in assisting states to build the entire crisis continuum nationwide,” said Brian Hepburn, Executive Director of NASMHPD. “Crisis services are essential to providing individuals the best care and support while diverting away from unnecessary higher levels of care and jail. This legislation is vital in preparation for the upcoming implementation of the 988 National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by expanding services and access to all who need behavioral health crisis support.” 

“RI International commends Representatives Blunt Rochester, Fitzpatrick, Cárdenas and Herrera Beutler for their bipartisan leadership in introducing the Behavioral Health Crisis Services Expansion Act,” said RI International President & CEO, David Covington, LPC, MBA. “This important bill lays the groundwork for a comprehensive behavioral health crisis care continuum across the US with the forthcoming implementation deadline in July 2022 for the “988” suicide prevention lifeline. For too long the national crisis care system has been plagued by lack of consistent and comprehensive funding, and this bill is a crucial step to ensuring access to care.  RI International is proud to support the Behavioral Health Crisis Services Expansion Act and urges its swift passage.”

For the full text of the bill, please click here