House Unanimously Passes Dr. Ruiz’s Bill to Help Patients Access Mental Health Care

September 30, 2020
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – On Tuesday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed Congressman Raul Ruiz’s bill, H.R. 2519, the Improving Mental Health Access from the Emergency Department Act. Individuals who end up in the emergency department for acute mental health episodes often don’t get the long-term care they need simply because emergency departments often lack the resources to identify and secure appropriate care. H.R. 2519 authorizes $75 million over the next five years for a grant program to help Emergency Departments create, support, or expand programs that will help patients transition to the appropriate follow-on care.

“I'm glad to see my bill, the Improving Mental Health Access from the Emergency Department Act, pass the House with overwhelming bipartisan support,” said Dr. Ruiz (CA-36). “My bill will help people who end up in the ER suffering from an acute mental health episode get the care they need to feel better and live happy, healthy lives. Now more than ever, we must expand access to mental health treatment and care. I urge the Senate to pass this bill to help patients immediately.” 

BACKGROUND:

Nearly one in five American adults experience mental illness in a given year[1]. In times of psychological crisis, many of these individuals turn to local emergency departments for care. Unfortunately, with growing demand due to rising rates of substance abuse and suicide, in addition to frequent shortages in psychiatric beds, patients can remain in emergency departments for hours, sometimes days, as appropriate mental health care is sought.

H.R. 2519, the Improving Mental Health Access from the Emergency Department Act of 2019, establishes a grant program to help enable Emergency Departments to implement innovative approaches to securing follow-on care for patients who have experienced an acute mental health episode and been in the care of the department.

Examples of qualifying programs include:

  • Increased tele-psychiatric support;
  • Expanded number of inpatient psychiatric beds;
  • Transportation services from the hospital to the location of the follow-on care;
  • Increased coordination with regional service providers;
  • Regional bed availability tracking and management programs.

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