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Chairs Scott, DeSaulnier Introduce Mental Health Matters Act

WASHINGTON – Today, House Education and Labor Committee Chairman Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (VA-03) and Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions Subcommittee Chairman Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11) introduced comprehensive legislation, the Mental Health Matters Act (H.R. 7780), to help confront the mental health crisis for children, students, workers, and families. The proposal includes a series of mental health policy priorities that would help support the behavioral health of students and school staff, strengthen school-based behavioral health care, and ensure access to mental health and substance use disorder benefits for workers and their families.

“The COVID-19 pandemic and opioid epidemic are alarming reminders that our mental health matters. Without adequate access to mental health services and protections, far too many children, students, workers, and families are grappling with trauma and heightened mental health needs on their own. We cannot protect our nation’s health or help communities recover if we do not strengthen our mental health care system,” said Chairman Scott. “The Mental Health Matters Act takes critical steps to support the behavioral health of children and school staff, strengthen school-based behavioral health care, and ensure access to mental health and substance use disorder benefits for workers and families. Simply put, this legislation takes the necessary steps we need to help confront the mental health crisis facing too many Americans.”

“Ensuring that individuals and families have the mental health care they need to thrive is a deeply personal issue for me,” said Congressman DeSaulnier. “I am proud to lead this legislation with Chairman Bobby Scott that will address mental health in students, bolster mental health parity protections, invest in the care workforce, and promote positive mental health outcomes in Americans of all ages. Together we can work to end the behavioral health crisis in this county and ensure everyone has the resources they need to live happy, healthy, and fulfilling lives.”

The COVID-19 pandemic, opioid epidemic, and other recent national crises have exacerbated mental health needs across our communities. Children have experienced an uptick in mental health challenges, educators have grappled with the task of getting their students back on track, college students with mental health challenges have faced barriers to receiving the appropriate education to which they are legally entitled, and far too many workers and families have suffered from insufficient access to the mental health and substance use disorder benefits they deserve.

To address these challenges, the Mental Health Matters Act would take comprehensive steps to strengthen access to mental health services and improve Americans’ wellbeing. Specifically, the legislation would:

Help build a pipeline of school-based mental health services providers and increase the number of mental health professionals serving in high-need schools;

Help state educational agencies recruit and retain school-based mental health services providers at high-need public schools;

Require institutions of higher education to increase transparency around the accommodations process and allow incoming students with existing documentation of a disability to access disability accommodations;

Help increase students’ access to evidence-based trauma support and mental health services through innovation by linking schools and districts with local trauma- informed support and mental health systems;

Require the Department of Health and Human Services to identify evidence-based interventions to improve the health of children and staff in Head Start programs, and help Head Start agencies implement these interventions;

Strengthen the capacity of the Department of Labor to ensure that private, employer-sponsored group health plans provide mental health and substance use disorder benefits under MHPAEA and ERISA; and

Strengthen the ability of people with private, employer-sponsored health and retirement plans to hold plan sponsors accountable when they are improperly denied mental health and substance use disorder benefits.

For the bill text of the Mental Health Matters Act, click here.

For a fact sheet of the Mental Health Matters Act, click here.

For a section-by-section of the Mental Health Matters Act, click here.

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