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Neguse introduces bipartisan bill to improve access to mental health services

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November 26, 2021, 10:34 am

A bill introduced Tuesday by U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse, whose district includes Vail, aims to expand interstate access to mental health resources by making it easier for patients to connect to care regardless of where they live.

Joe Neguse

“Our response to the pandemic has helped us develop robust telehealth systems and has shown us that patients don’t have to be in the same geographic location as providers to receive quality care. Our hope is that, with this bill, we can help rural, disconnected, and economically disadvantaged communities access the quality, affordable mental health care services everyone deserves,” Neguse, a Democrat who represents Colorado’s 2nd Congressional District, said in a statement

The legislation, dubbed the Compacts, Access and Responsible Expansion (CARE) for Mental Health Professionals Act, would create a grant program to incentivize mental health provider networks that operate across state lines. It would encourage states to lower the barriers that prevent networks from working in multiple states, such as making licensure easier and removing duplicative registration processes. 

This would expand access to rural communities that have a lower concentration of mental health resources, as well as address workforce shortages of mental health professionals. A provider in western Kansas, for example, could more easily provide treatment in person or via telehealth to someone who lives in rural southeastern Colorado. There are an estimated 120 million Americans living in areas with a shortage of mental health care professionals, according to Neguse’s office. 

In May, Children’s Hospital Colorado declared a “state of emergency” for youth mental health in the face of rising suicide rates among children. The COVID-19 pandemic and associated sense of hopelessness is likely a contributing factor.

“The state of emergency for children’s mental health requires action from elected officials at every level, and we appreciate Congressman Neguse advancing solutions that can strengthen our mental health workforce across state lines and help children access the care they need before they reach the point of crisis,” Dr. David Brumbaugh, Chief Medical Officer at Children’s Hospital Colorado, said in a statement. 

Neguse introduced the bill with Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, a Republican from Pennsylvania.

Editor’s note: This story first appeared on Colorado Newsline, which is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Colorado Newsline maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Quentin Young for questions: info@coloradonewsline.com. Follow Colorado Newsline on Facebook and Twitter.

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