Loebsack Introduces Legislation to Improve Access to Mental Health ServicesWritten by Theresa Rose on May 9, 2017
Washington, D.C. – Congressman Dave Loebsack recently introduced two bills to address how to better provide mental health services for those in need. The Children’s Access to Mental Health Services (CAMHS) Act and the Behavioral Health Care Integration Act both build on Loebsack’s work to increase access to mental health services, but to also chip away at the stigma surrounding mental illness. Loebsack was raised by his single mother who struggled with mental illness and has long worked to reduce the stigma of mental health, while working to help those who are struggling.
“I, like so many others, have personally felt the effects of mental illness in my family, having grown up with a mother who struggled with mental illness. And for far too long, for far too many people, mental health issues have been left in the shadows,” said Loebsack. “If we want to really make a difference in the overall health and wellbeing of Iowans, we need to recognize that the brain is part of the body and should be treated as such. These two pieces of legislation will help those in need get the treatment and care they need.”
Background on Legislation
Mental health services are already underutilized for children, and when issues go unidentified and unaddressed, they often manifest later in life. Untreated, these issues can emerge in impaired school performance, strained peer-to-peer relationships, criminal justice problems, physical maladies, unemployment later in life and more. Early intervention is the key, but there are serious barriers to access for our children.
Currently, these integration programs are funded through a patchwork of short-term public and private grants. While Child Behavioral Health Access Programs are making real progress in expanding access to behavioral health services for children and adolescents everywhere, we must do more to incentivize providers to get involved. The CAMHS Act’s enhanced Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP) will help grow these programs to make sure our children get the mental health care they need.
Behavioral Health Care Integration Act (H.R. 2336)
Physical and behavioral health issues often go hand in hand. Tragically, individuals with mental health or substance use disorders die at a young age at higher rates than the average American, often due to chronic medical illnesses that go untreated. Further, behavioral health conditions complicate the treatment of physical illnesses. We can work to improve the overall health and wellbeing of these patients by providing access to a team of providers who have experience in addressing all of their needs
Behavioral Health Care Integration Act would help improve access to mental health services by creating competitive grants for merged practices that offer both mental health services and primary care within the same shared space in the same facility.