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Washington, D.C. - As millions of Americans struggle with mental health and substance use disorder challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic, Representative Tom Emmer (MN-06), along with Representatives David Trone (MD-06), Doris Matsui (CA-06), Paul Tonko (NY-20), and Tony Cárdenas (CA-29) announced today that they introduced the Behavioral Health Coordination and Communication Act of 2021, legislation to address the need for coordinated, evidence-based behavioral health care programs at the federal level.

Over 40% of adults reported exhibiting a new symptom of a mental or behavioral health condition during the COVID-19 pandemic. While programs to address these crises exist at the federal level, they are often redundant and lack clear, unified direction, causing state and local governments to struggle creating programs to meet their community’s needs and improve access to care. 

The Behavioral Health Coordination and Communication Act of 2021 would create an Interagency Coordinator to address the currently disjointed federal efforts and foster constant communication among all relevant agencies and departments, with the goal of focusing the federal government’s approach to mental health and substance use disorders. 

“Our nation is in the midst of a mental health crisis, and the federal government needs strong coordination to successfully ensure treatment for those in need. Without a unified approach, we will continue to let Americans who desperately need mental health care fall through the cracks. Interagency coordination will help reduce duplicative efforts and improve government efficiency in response to this crisis. Access to mental health care services should be a top priority for our federal government, and I appreciate my colleague, Congressman David Trone for partnering with me on this essential effort,” said Congressman Emmer.

"Millions of Americans have mental health and substance use disorders that have only been made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic, and it’s time that the federal government coordinate its efforts to ensure that these folks can access high-quality, effective care,” said Congressman Trone. "By coordinating our efforts, we will save time, resources, and taxpayer dollars while supporting those who need it most. I want to thank my colleagues on both sides of the aisle for recognizing the urgency of coming together to support the health of all Americans, especially during these unprecedented circumstances."

“As we continue to deal with the immense challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, we must meet this moment with a comprehensive health care strategy, prioritizing not only our physical well-being but the mental health of all Americans,” said Congresswoman Matsui. “That means directing federal resources towards our mental health infrastructure and making sure that the continuum of care is strong from government programs to providers and patients. The Behavioral Health Coordination and Communication Act will make crucial changes to streamline communication and disseminate accurate information to all corners of the nation. As we move towards our economic and physical recovery, we must also ensure that our response to the pandemic addresses the mental health impact on Americans.”

“This COVID pandemic has further exposed and—in many cases—worsened gaps in our health care system, particularly for patients living with mental illness or substance use disorders,” said Congressman Tonko. “We cannot let any more of our neighbors, friends and loved ones fall through the cracks because they were denied life-saving care. I am proud to stand with Congressman Trone in supporting this bold, compassionate bill that will strengthen our national approach to behavioral health and help find and address gaps in access so that those who need it most can receive the treatment they need.” 

“We know that the pandemic has taken a significant emotional toll on people. We cannot ignore the very real mental health challenges that this has had on our children, our frontline heroes, and our communities,” said Congressman Cárdenas. “As we continue to work to beat the virus, let us not neglect our mental health. There is no health without mental health. That’s why I am proud to join Congressman Trone in introducing this commonsense legislation to coordinate our national response to the growing mental health crisis.” 

For a bill summary, click here.

For bill text, click here.