Capito, Hassan Introduce Legislation to Improve Mental Health Care in Emergency Departments
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) and Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) introduced the Improving Mental Health Access from the Emergency Department Act, legislation to improve the way patients receive care for mental illness in emergency departments. The bipartisan bill would establish a competitive grant program for emergency departments to adopt more collaborative and connected mental health care models and deploy new technology to better connect patients with appropriate resources in their communities.
“With the ever-growing demands on our emergency departments, it is essential we take steps to ensure all patients, especially those with mental health care needs, promptly receive the care they deserve,” Senator Capito said. “This bill will allow emergency departments to customize innovative solutions that meet the unique needs of these patients.”
“Emergency departments are stretched thin, and as demand for mental health services continues to rise, we must ensure that emergency departments have the resources that they need to connect patients with appropriate community-based mental health care,” Senator Hassan said. “This bipartisan legislation would help emergency departments develop collaborative and technology-driven programs to ensure that patients with mental illness are receiving prompt medical attention.”
A growing demand for mental health care services due to rising rates of substance abuse and suicide, as well as a shortage of psychiatric beds, is causing patients to remain in emergency departments for hours, sometimes days, as appropriate mental health care is sought. As emergency departments across the country face this reality, some are implementing innovative solutions to ensure patients with mental illness receive the care they need and deserve.
The Improving Mental Health Access from the Emergency Department Act would provide resources for emergency departments to adopt more collaborative and connected care models and deploy new technology to better connect patients with appropriate resources in their communities. The legislation recognizes that needs vary by patient, provider, and community and allows emergency departments to design the solutions that will best work for them.
Specifically, the legislation would:
- Authorize a competitive grant program for emergency departments to implement innovative approaches to securing prompt access to appropriate follow-on care for individuals experiencing acute mental health episodes and presenting for care in emergency departments.
- Such innovative approaches could include:
- Expediting transition to post-emergency care through expanded coordination with regional service providers, assessment, peer navigators, bed availability tracking and management, transfer protocol development, networking infrastructure development, and transportation services.
- Increasing the supply of inpatient psychiatric beds and alternative care settings, such as regional emergency psychiatric units.
- Expanding approaches to providing psychiatric care in the emergency department—including tele-psychiatric support and other remote psychiatric consultations, peak period crisis clinics, or creating dedicated psychiatric emergency service units.
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