U.S. Representatives Torres and Emmer Lead Bipartisan Push to Expand Access to Mental Health Services

Jan 09, 2024
Press

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Representatives Ritchie Torres (NY-15) and Tom Emmer (MN-06). introduced the bipartisan Securing Facilities for Mental Health Services Act.

The legislation would eliminate the prohibition in Section 242 of the National Housing Act that currently prohibits inpatient psychiatric hospitals from applying for mortgage assistance. Currently, these hospitals are the only type of health care facility prevented from accessing mortgage assistance through the Section 242 program.

“Access to quality and affordable mental health services is personal to me,” Torres said. “As someone who has struggled with their own mental health at various points in my life, I know how painful and insurmountable those feelings can be. It is our duty as public servants to address shortfalls in the system, and that is what Congressman Emmer and I are doing with this critical bill.”

“80%[1] of Minnesota counties have a health care shortage,” Emmer said. “Patients in our community are being denied potentially lifesaving care due to outdated laws that should no longer be on the books. We’re proud to continue this bipartisan effort to offer care to those who need it most.”

If passed, this bill will help alleviate the inpatient bed shortage across the country and eliminate further barriers to psychiatric inpatient hospital expansion. 

Background

Between the years of 1970 and 2014, the number of patients in state psychiatric hospitals declined from 370,000 to just 40,000.[2]  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. Without accessible mental health care facilities, patients in need of mental health care are disproportionately sent to homeless shelters or jails. 

Currently, inpatient psychiatric hospitals are unable to qualify for the mortgage assistance program since they do not meet the patient-day requirement, which requires qualifying hospitals to have more than 50% of the patients receive acute care services, such as same day surgeries and treatments for short-term illnesses and surgeries. Inpatient psychiatric hospitals are unable to meet this requirement because they treat their patients for long periods of time. Historically, inpatient psychiatric hospitals have been excluded from this program because of abuses patients suffered in the hospitals in the mid 1900’s.   

The Securing Facilities for Mental Health Services Act was first introduced by Emmer and Torres in June 2022. 

In September 2022, Emmer and Torres sent a letter to Comptroller General Gene Dodaro of the Government Accountability Office requesting an independent study of the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) mortgage assistance to acute care hospitals and what steps HUD will have to take to implement the bill This study has concluded.

This bill is endorsed by the Minnesota Hospital Association, the Mortgage Bankers Association, and the National Association of Behavioral Healthcare.


[1] https://urldefense.com/v3/__https:/www.startribune.com/minnesota-mental-health-care-crisis-bed-shortage-low-reimbursement/600258431/__;!!PxibshUo2Yr_Ta5B!082NMB4J3BWdbldL66S_Phs44JOyvXnlBORgAMeBJZORPaWFlF3cJYQZig3DiG1Xcff94lvmES0iV3XwMYHoE94ECn1OQs560aU$

[2] https://www.psychiatry.org/getmedia/81f685f1-036e-4311-8dfc-e13ac425380f/APA-Psychiatric-Bed-Crisis-Report-Full.pdf

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