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  • Washington Highlights

    House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee Advances Mental Health Legislation


    Sinead Hunt, Legislative Analyst
    For Media Inquiries

    On May 11, the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health considered and advanced several bills [see related story], including bipartisan mental health legislation. The subcommittee’s bipartisan vote of 32-0 allowed Restoring Hope for Mental Health and Well-Being Act (H.R. 7666) to proceed to the full committee for consideration.

    In his opening statement, full committee chair Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.) applauded the committee for their bipartisan collaboration on the legislation, which would reauthorize over 30 key Health Resources and Services (HRSA) and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

    (SAMHSA) programs that are due to expire at the end of fiscal year 2022 on Oct. 1. He also expressed his disappointment that two key pieces of legislation — the Mainstreaming Addiction Treatment Act (H.R. 1384) and the Medication Access and Training Expansion Act of 2021 (H.R. 2067) — were not included in the bipartisan package. Pallone underscored the potential of these bills to reduce barriers to substance use disorder treatment, stating, “I hope to keep working on these critical pieces of legislation with my Republican colleagues so that we can reach agreement before full committee.”

    Committee ranking member Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) expressed her concern about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the mental health of children and young people. She highlighted the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act (H.R. 7255), a bill included in the bipartisan package, that would reauthorize community-based suicide prevention programs for youth and young adults. Subcommittee Chair Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) echoed concerns about pediatric mental health challenges in her opening statement. Eshoo called upon her colleagues to support the Strengthen Kids’ Mental Health Now Act (H.R. 7236), which was omitted from the legislative package under consideration by the subcommittee. The AAMC previously endorsed this bill in a letter to co-sponsors Reps. Eshoo, Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-Del.), and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.).

    Blunt Rochester expressed her disappointment that the bipartisan mental health package did not include provisions from the Helping Kids Cope Act (H.R. 4944) or the Strengthen Kids’ Mental Health Now Act. “We have all heard about the significant mental health challenges that young people in this country are facing ... investing in services and supports that promote timely access to pediatric mental health care could not be more important.”

    Notable provisions of the legislative package included:

    • Reauthorization of HRSA’s Screening and Treatment for Maternal Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder grant program and the establishment of a maternal mental health hotline.
    • Reauthorization of SAMHSA’s Community Mental Health Services Block Grant program and a requirement that 5% of funds be allocated toward crisis care services.
    • Elimination of the requirement that an individual be addicted to opioids for at least one year prior to being admitted for treatment by an opioid treatment program.
    • Authorization of a new grant program designed to increase uptake of the Collaborative Care Model, an evidence-based integrated behavioral health model.
    • Reauthorization of HRSA’s Pediatric Mental Health Care Access grant program, which promotes behavioral health integration in primary care practices via telehealth modalities.

    In addition, the subcommittee advanced the Keeping Incarceration Discharges Streamlined for Children and Accommodating Resources in Education Act (KIDS CARES Act, H.R. 7233). This legislation would require state Medicaid agencies to cover mental health screenings for justice-involved youth. The subcommittee’s bipartisan vote of 32-0 allows the measure to proceed to the full committee for consideration.

    These bills will be considered by the full Energy and Commerce committee next week.