Bill Would Give Mental Health Professionals More Flexibility to Work in Our Communities

WASHINGTON, D.C. [03/12/18]—Today, U.S. Senator Tina Smith and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) introduced a bipartisan bill to expand mental health services in the school system. 

The Improving Access to Mental Health Services Act would bring mental health professionals who currently work in the National Health Service Corps (NHSC) into schools, community-based organizations, and into the homes of families who need the services. Right now, NHSC professionals can only provide care at certain approved clinics and are limited in the care they can provide off site.

This bipartisan legislative effort would allow communities in Minnesota, Alaska, and across the country to bolster their mental health treatment options for children—and it would particularly help young people living in rural areas who often lack adequate access to these services.

“Lawmakers often talk about the urgent need to expand mental health services,” said Sen. Smith. “But we need to do more than just talk. I was very glad to work in a bipartisan way with Senator Murkowski to offer this new measure, which is sorely needed—particularly in rural areas. Expanding access to these important services in our schools would help meet the mental health needs of our children at a younger age, and it would go a long way towards reducing the stigma of receiving mental health treatment. This is a common sense, bipartisan effort that needs to be passed into law.”

“Our goal needs to be universal access to preventive behavioral health providers. We need to ensure that those who might benefit from behavioral health services can obtain it when and where they need it. I am committed to helping bring down barriers to access in Alaska as well as to bolster treatment for those in need,” said Sen. Murkowski. “I’m proud to cosponsor this bill to expand access in underserved areas for children who need mental and behavioral health services. Mobilizing our NHSC members and partnering them with schools and community-based organizations is a practical, common-sense approach that will streamline the caregiving process, making it less burdensome on parents and easier for children to get the treatment they need.”

According to the National Institutes of Health, mental health conditions occur in young people about as often as they do in adults—about 1 in 5 have a mental health condition—but young people frequently have a hard time accessing mental health care. The Improving Access to Mental Health Services Act, which you can read more about here, would give existing NHSC providers further flexibility in where they are able to practice and deliver care, and those living in rural areas would have better access to mental health services.

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