U.S. Rep. John Katko (R-NY), along with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle and in both houses of Congress, asked Congressional leaders Thursday to ensure mental health and addiction treatment providers across the country.
In a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), Katko and 73 other members of Congress asked for $38.5 billion in emergency funds be directed to mental and behavioral health providers in the next COVID-19 relief package.
The Congressman said the emotional and economic impact of the pandemic has resulted in an increased need for mental health treatment and substance use disorder treatment. However, because of the economic slowdown, the letter said, many mental health and behavioral health providers are at risk of closing their doors.
“In Central New York, many local mental health disorder and addiction treatment providers are being forced to make tough financial decisions as they work to meet an increased need for their services,” Katko said. “In an effort to support these organizations, I am joining lawmakers from across the aisle in urging Congressional Leaders to direct emergency funds to behavioral health organizations in Central New York and across the country. Now more than ever, it is imperative mental health and addiction treatment providers have the resources they need to treat individuals in our community who are struggling with the emotional toll of this crisis. By providing direct support, we will ensure local providers are able to keep their doors open and can continue to reach and treat those in need during these trying times.”
According to the letter, nearly one in five adults in American has reported struggling with mental illness, and over 10 million have reported suicidal thoughts. For people of color, people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, and people living in rural communities, the chances are much higher that they will not have access to mental health or behavioral health care, or will receive lower-quality care.
“Millions of Americans struggle with a mental health issue, and the current pandemic will only increase the need for behavioral health supports,” said Paul Joslyn, Executive Director of AccessCNY, a provider of mental health services based in Syracuse, N.Y. “Our staff are essential workers, and as providers, we’re operating at maximum capacity. Those added costs, along with new needs around PPE and telehealth, are pushing a system already at the brink to the edge. A legacy of this pandemic will be a growing need for behavioral health support, and we must be prepared to meet this next public health crisis.”
The letter stressed that behavioral health organizations (BHOs) have not been sufficiently included in the four packages Congress has passed to date. It estimated that BHOs have lost nearly $40 billion in revenue as a result of overtime to meet increased patient needs, increased need for PPEs, and the implementation of telehealth.