Congress Holds Hearings on Behavioral Health

Over the past several weeks, Congressional Committees have held several hearings to discuss mental and behavioral health care, including mental health parity and emergency response to mental health crises. On April 15, the House Education and Labor Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions held a hearing on “Meeting the Moment: Improving Access to Behavioral and Mental Health Care.” The Subcommittee heard testimony from Chief of Psychology in the Public Interest at the American Psychological Association (APA) Brian Smedley, Chief Medical Officer at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Christine Moutier, Senior Vice President of Health Policy at The ERISA Industry Committee James Gelfand, and Founder of Psych-Appeal Meiram Bendat. Witnesses raised several issues with previous legislation such as the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 (MHPAEA) and argued for stronger federal enforcement, increased use of telehealth, and the encouragement of interstate mental health licensing. The Subcommittee also discussed the need for more mental health professionals across the country, briefly asking witnesses what Congress can do to encourage and aid students through their education and training. When discussing mental health and policing, Dr. Smedley mentioned the fact that state employee health plans can opt-out of MHPAEA protections for essential workers such as teachers, firefighters, and police. The House hearing can be viewed here on the Committee website.

On April 23, the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Criminal Justice and Counterterrorism held a hearing on “Behavioral Health and Policing: Interactions and Solutions.” The Subcommittee heard testimony from the Commander of the Education & Training Section of the Baltimore Police Department Martin Bartness, Co-Director of The Mental Health Strategic Impact Initiative Keris Jän Myrick, Outreach Manager of Crisis Assistance Helping Out On The Streets (CAHOOTS) Ebony Morgan, Executive Director at the Technical Assistance Collaborative Kevin Martone, Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute Rafael Mangual, Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims, and wife of a fallen officer, Terri O’Connor. The Subcommittee generally acknowledged the faults with the current mental health care system and addressed topics such as the implementation of national mental health crisis response teams and some successful examples such as the CAHOOTS program. The Senate hearing can be viewed here on the Committee website.

This article was contributed by COSSA’s spring intern, Nicholas Lynn.

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Posted in Issue 9 (April 27), Update, Volume 40 (2021)

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