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Harder to Introduce Increasing Access to Mental Health Act to Modernize Mental Health Care

WASHINGTON – Representative Josh Harder (CA-10) is introducing the Increasing Access to Mental Health Act, legislation which will modernize existing rules to expand access to mental health facilities in the Valley. It will also provide grant funding to help connect people with mental and behavioral health concerns with important services once they leave treatment. Current laws prevent facilities that provide mental health care from offering services to more than 16 people at once which limits access to much-needed care. Rep. Harder’s legislation would bring together mental health care experts to revise the old regulation.

“I hear concerns about mental health access just about everywhere I go in the Valley – whether it’s in a classroom, a ride-along with law enforcement, visiting a homeless encampment, or directly from providers. The bottom line is that we need more doctors and more facilities to help folks with mental and behavioral health,” said Rep. Harder. “My legislation seeks to expand access and provide more funding to help folks get back on their feet after a mental health issue.”

“We are struggling to address so many symptoms stemming from mental illness,” said Terry Withrow, Stanislaus County Board Chairman. “Any help we can get that would leverage federal funding in a way that supports the needs of the Valley is great.”

“There is a definite need for more access to emergency inpatient beds and I always welcome strategies that are grounded in best practice,” said Cindy Duenas, Executive Director, Center for Human Services. “Stanislaus County has a long history of collaboration and working together to solve complex issues like this and I look forward to working with Rep. Harder to both provide data and support his efforts.”

According to the 2018 Community Health Needs Assessment conducted by Community Health Insights, access to mental, behavioral, and substance abuse services is the number one significant health need within the Stanislaus Surgical Hospital service area. The area includes all of Stanislaus County.

Currently, a federal regulation called the Institutions for Mental Diseases (IMD) exclusion prevents Medicaid funding from going to mental health care facilities with more than 16 beds. Although this rule was originally implemented to stop the “warehousing” of people with mental health issues, it has had the unintended effect of also preventing short-term care facilities from expanding to provide more services to Americans in a mental health crisis.

Representative Harder’s Increasing Access to Mental Health Act would convene experts in mental health from the local, state, and federal levels to assess the effectiveness of the IMD exclusion and make recommendations on whether the rule should be amended. The bill would also provide $50 million per year to support partnerships between mental health facilities and community resources that help people in recovery to find stable housing, additional mental health services, and job training.

Representative Harder is a leader in efforts to improve the provision of mental health services. During Police Week, Rep. Harder introduced the Supporting the Health and Safety of Law Enforcement Act, legislation to help law enforcement officers interact with people with mental health issues. Rep. Harder also introduced and passed an amendment to the Protecting Americans with Preexisting Conditions Act which would determine the effect “junk” health care plans would have on access to mental health care.

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