Congress Has Been Busy — 11 Different Bills Pass Covering Mental Health and Substance Use

May 19th, 2021 - Wyn Staheli, Director of Research
Categories:   Behavioral Health|Psychiatry|Psychology  

The House of Representatives has certainly been working hard to advance behavioral health services. The following is a list of bills that have recently passed there and moved on to the Senate:

  1. Suicide Prevention Lifeline Improvement Act of 2021: Appropriates $5 million to begin a “pilot program to research, analyze, and employ various technologies and platforms of communication (including social media platforms, texting platforms, and email platforms) for suicide prevention in addition to the telephone and online chat service provided by the Suicide Prevention Lifeline.”
  2. Family Support Services for Addiction Act of 2021: “To establish a grant program for family community organizations that provide support for individuals struggling with substance use disorder and their families.”
  3. STANDUP Act of 2021: “Suicide Training and Awareness Nationally Delivered for Universal Prevention Act of 2021 or the STANDUP Act of 2021 requires state, tribal, and local educational agencies that receive grant funding for priority mental-health needs, including through the Project AWARE State Education Agency Grant Program, to establish and implement evidence-based suicide awareness and prevention training policies. In addition, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, in coordination with the Department of Education and Bureau of Indian Education, must provide educational agencies with best practices for these trainings.”
  4. Mental Health Services for Students Act of 2021: “This bill provides specific statutory authority for the Project AWARE (Advancing Wellness and Resiliency in Education) State Educational Agency Grant Program that is administered by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The program supports school-based mental health services, including screening, treatment, and outreach programs.”
  5. Improving Mental Health Access from the Emergency Department Act of 2021: “This bill authorizes a grant program for emergency departments to increase access to follow-up psychiatric services for individuals who present for care of acute mental-health episodes. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration may award these grants.” 
  6. Effective Suicide Screening and Assessment in the Emergency Department Act of 2021: “This bill requires the Department of Health and Human Services to award grants to hospitals to improve their capacity to identify patients in emergency departments who are at risk of suicide and connect those patients with mental health treatments and services.” 
  7. Pursuing Equity in Mental Health Act: Among other things, this bill seeks to appropriate $20 million to fund grants for Federally qualified health centers, rural health clinics, or behavioral health programs, serving a high proportion of individuals from racial and ethnic minority groups.
  8. HERO Act: “To require the Secretary of Health and Human Services to improve the detection, prevention, and treatment of mental health issues among public safety officers, and for other purposes.” This includes tracking suicide rates as well as creating behavioral health and wellness programs.
  9. Campaign to Prevent Suicide Act: “To require the Secretary of Health and Human Services to conduct a national suicide prevention media campaign, and for other purposes.” 
  10. Suicide Prevention Act: “To authorize a pilot program to expand and intensify surveillance of self-harm in partnership with State and local public health departments, to establish a grant program to provide self-harm and suicide prevention services in hospital emergency departments, and for other purposes.”
  11. Suicide Prevention Lifeline Improvement Act of 2021: “To amend the Public Health Service Act to ensure the provision of high-quality service through the Suicide Prevention Lifeline, and for other purposes.”

It’s clear that that suicide prevention is high on their list of priorities since many of these acts deal specifically with that issue. It’s good to see that they are also addressing the needs of schools as well as minority groups.

Keep in mind that the Senate is reviewing these bills and even if something passes in the House, it does not mean that it will move through the Senate, be signed by the President, and then become a law. If you wish to support any of these bills, be sure to contact your local senator expressing your support.

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