Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.) introduced bipartisan legislation to expand access to peer counseling services for Nevada seniors. Companion legislation is being introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Representatives Judy Chu (D-Calif.-28) and Adrian Smith (R-Neb.-03).
“Peer counseling is a proven, effective service that provides thousands of Nevadans with mental and behavioral health support each year,” said Senator Cortez Masto. “My bipartisan legislation make it easier for Nevada seniors across the state to access these essential programs.”
“Mental health is a critical part of a patient’s wellbeing,” said Dr. Cassidy. “Peer support should be another tool a senior has for mental health support. There is no silver bullet to fix our mental health crisis, but it’s part of a silver buckshot strategy.”
The PEERS in Medicare Act of 2023 would enhance mental health care available to Nevada seniors by requiring Medicare to cover peer support services provided at rural health clinics, federally qualified health centers, community mental health centers, and certified community behavioral health clinics. This bill builds upon the success of legislation Cortez Masto passed last year to ensure primary care physicians could bill Medicare for peer support specialist services.
“Peer support services are lifesaving person-centered recovery services that have been used for decades to instill hope and assist a person in obtaining life goals and positive outcomes” said Mary Giliberti, Mental Health America’s Chief Public Policy Officer. “Allowing these services to be offered in community mental health centers and other community settings will be an important step toward advancing behavioral health prevention in the Medicare program by ensuring individuals with mental health and substance use conditions are able to take advantage of opportunities to live a full life and avoid crisis.”
“Peer support specialists are a critical part of the mental health and substance use care workforce. Their ability to provide recovery-oriented, person-centered care – often drawing from lived experience – is vital to ensuring people have crucial access to the full continuum of behavioral health care,” said Chuck Ingoglia, President & CEO, National Council for Mental Wellbeing. “By allowing peer support services to be reimbursed by Medicare in certain settings, this bill will not only expand access to life-saving care for Medicare beneficiaries but also help grow the mental health and substance use care workforce.”
Senator Cortez Masto has been a leader in the Senate on mental health issues. She helped fund and implement the 988 Suicide & Crisis lifeline, and passed bipartisan legislation to expand behavioral health crisis support services. She successfully fought to include $1 billion to support mental health services in schools in the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act. She is also working to pass bipartisan legislation to expand telehealth treatment for Nevadans struggling with opioid use disorders.