Washington, D.C.— Today, Congressman Tom Emmer (MN-06) sent a letter to Comptroller General Gene Dodaro requesting a study of the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) mortgage assistance to acute care hospitals. Presently, facilities that focus on mental health care are the only type of acute care hospitals unable to receive federal mortgage assistance.
Emmer was joined in this bipartisan effort by his Financial Services Committee colleagues Ranking Member Patrick McHenry (NC-10) and Ritchie Torres (NY-15).
Emmer said, “Mental health care is health care. Our current housing policies are outdated and have created a chronic shortage of psychiatric beds that too often abandons patients to the streets or traps them in a cycle of incarceration.”
“We already have the tools to bring care to patients in need. The time has come to remove arbitrary barriers to care,” Emmer concluded.
Representative Torres said, "Mental health services in our country are fundamentally flawed. It is time for HUD to take stock of systems that place unnecessary barriers on our most vulnerable citizens from receiving critical treatment. We must take psychiatric care just as serious as health care, and begin to help those most in need"
Specifically, the letter asks GAO to study the impact of allowing inpatient psychiatric hospitals to apply for mortgage assistance. Currently, these types of facilities are prohibited from doing so. In June 2022, Congressmen Emmer and Torres introduced the Securing Facilities for Mental Health Services Act to increase the number of psychiatric beds available to patients by eliminating Section 242 of the National Housing Act, the provision prohibiting inpatient psychiatric hospitals from applying for mortgage assistance. You can read more about the bill here.
Inpatient psychiatric beds play an important role in the administration of mental health care. Unfortunately, voluntarily accessing inpatient beds can be a challenge. A 2021 study published by the National Institutes of Health reports that the United States has 21 psychiatric beds per every 100,000 individuals, approximately 40% lower than the estimated number of beds needed.
This letter is one of several efforts Congressman Emmer is leading to address the growing mental health crisis in the United States. In 2018, Emmer introduced the STRESS Act to ensure rural areas and farm communities have better access to mental health counselors and support specialists. He introduced the Expanding Access to Inpatient Mental Health Act in 2021, which will close an arbitrary cap on mental health services for Institutions for Mental Diseases. In June, part of his legislation, the Due Process Continuity of Care Act, to continue Medicaid mental health coverage for juvenile detainees while they await trial was passed in the House of Representatives.
You can read the Emmer/McHenry/Torres letter to Comptroller Dodaro in full here.