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Sewell, colleagues introduce bill to break down barriers to mental health services

The legislation will help to ensure that Americans can get the help they need.
Credit: susanne2688 - stock.adobe.com

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — This week, U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell, AL-07,  Darin LaHood, IL-18, and David Kustoff, TN-08, introduced bipartisan legislation to break down barriers to mental health services and substance use disorder crisis services. H.R. 8892, the Access to Mental Health Services Act, will heighten awareness of such services and identify gaps in coverage under private insurance. 

The legislation will help to ensure that Americans can get the help they need, especially in times of crisis.

“Alabamians suffering from mental health and substance use disorders deserve our compassion and support,” said Rep. Sewell. “We in Congress must ensure that Americans have access to the treatment and services they need to recover. That’s why as we celebrate National Recovery Month, I’m proud to join with my colleagues across the aisle to introduce the Access to Mental Health Services Act. This critical legislation would help break down barriers to mental health services for those who need them most and marks a critical step toward addressing our nation’s mental health crisis.”

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“Mental and behavioral health services are critical components of our health care system, and Congress can do more to ensure patients better understand their access to these services, especially in rural communities like those in the 18th District of Illinois,” said Rep. Darin LaHood. “This bipartisan bill will help mental and behavioral health care providers to better treat patients and increase access to mental health care services, particularly in situations of mental health crisis care, while also protecting patients from surprise medical billing. On the Ways and Means Committee, I will continue to be an advocate for our mental and behavioral health care providers and patients in central and west-central Illinois.”

“It is crucial that Americans have access to mental health and substance use disorder crisis services,” said Rep. David Kustoff. “I am pleased to join Representatives LaHood and Sewell in introducing the Access to Mental Health Services Act of 2022, a bipartisan bill to help break down barriers to mental health services and support patients and healthcare providers across the country. This legislation will heighten the awareness and availability of these essential services for individuals who are struggling with their own mental health. I urge my colleagues to support this important bill.” 

Coverage for mental health crisis services under private insurance varies, and limited availability of in-network providers can restrict access for patients. While many do have access to such services, they may not know where to access them or may worry about the perceived stigma of obtaining such mental health crisis services. 

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The landmark No Surprises Act (NSA) provides new federal consumer protections against surprise medical bills for all emergency services and certain non-emergency services. However, while the Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor, and the Treasury have clarified that certain mental health crisis care settings fall under the NSA’s definition of emergency services and guarantee such consumer protections, others do not.

Accordingly, H.R. 8892 seeks to expand outreach efforts and identify private insurance barriers to accessing mental health crisis services:

Heightening awareness of such services: This bill requires the Departments to conduct an outreach campaign regarding the availability of mental health crisis services under private insurance. In addition, the outreach campaign would promote the potential benefits of accessing such services and seek to address any perceived stigma in obtaining such services.

Identifying potential coverage gaps: This bill requires the Departments to submit a report to Congress concerning private insurance coverage for mental health crisis services, any potential barriers to accessing such services, and potential issues related to unexpected surprise medical bills.

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