U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer joined with two other congressmen, both Republicans, to introduce a bipartisan bill Thursday that would help people suffering from a behavioral health or substance abuse crisis get more immediate assistance.
The Mental Health and Substance Abuse Treatment Accessibility Act of 2016 would allow the Department of Health and Human Services to provide loans and loan guarantees to local entities that have plans to build psychiatric and substance abuse facilities.
The proposed legislation was introduced by Kilmer and U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (congresswoman from Washington’s 3rd Congressional District), and Tim Murphy (Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District.)
Kilmer, a Gig Harbor Democrat who represents Washington’s 6th District, said the legislation would give a much-needed “jump start” to efforts to construct new treatment facilities.
“Our country is facing a mental health challenge that has hit all our communities,” Kilmer said.
“Too many of our neighbors are suffering from behavioral and substance abuse disorders and not getting proper treatment. That has left emergency rooms and jail cells overwhelmed while leaving families hurting,” he added. “I’m proud to work with Representatives Herrera Beutler and Murphy to introduce a bill that will give a jump-start to local proposals to build brand new psychiatric facilities.”
Herrera Beutler agreed the legislation would fill a crucial need.
“Far too often, people suffering a mental health or substance abuse crisis don’t get the immediate help they need because our communities lack the necessary resources,” Herrera Beutler said.
“By partnering with Representatives Kilmer and Murphy on this solution, we hope to better address the needs of those struggling with mental illness, make available more resources to keep our communities safe, and relieve the overload on emergency rooms ill-equipped for these cases. Importantly, this solution will pay for itself and provide value to Southwest Washington taxpayers while strengthening our communities,” she said.
Supporters of the bill noted the acute need that currently exists across the country for facilities that provide short-term stays for individuals suffering from psychiatric and substance disorders.
“Access to inpatient mental healthcare is a cornerstone to our effort in delivering treatment before tragedy,” Murphy said. “This bill will work to make that possible, and I am pleased to support Rep. Kilmer’s bipartisan approach to improving access to crisis mental health care.”
Under the bill, the Department of Health and Human Services could offer loans and guarantees to psychiatric treatment facilities, substance abuse treatment facilities, and public and private psychiatric hospitals for the planning and construction of new facilities.
The legislation would also make needed investments to community-based outpatient programs with any revenue generated from the loans.