December 16, 2020

Cortez Masto Introduces Comprehensive Mental Health Legislation

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) introduced legislation to help give Nevada communities the tools they need to develop and deliver comprehensive behavioral health crisis services. The Behavioral Health Crisis Services Expansion Act would create a continuum of crisis services across the country by directing the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to define national standards for behavioral health crisis care, expand coverage of mental health services for patients, and provide resources to communities expanding or implementing new behavioral health crisis services to meet local needs.

“Every year, thousands of Americans struggle with mental and behavioral health, and the coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated this crisis. Too often, individuals don’t have access to the behavioral health services that would address their needs, which is especially true for those experiencing behavioral health crises or combating substance use disorders. My legislation is a first step towards helping Nevada, and the nation, implement comprehensive behavioral health crisis services that are just as accessible as any other emergency service to meet the wide-ranging needs of individuals who might otherwise struggle to find appropriate care."

Many of these programs and services have already been developed on a small-scale in communities across the country and it is past time that we expand these services to everyone, no matter what they suffer from, where they live, or what kind of health insurance they have. In the coming months, I look forward to continued work with stakeholders to refine and improve this proposal, and I look forward to reintroducing in the next Congress.”


Senator Cortez Masto’s Behavioral Health Crisis Services Expansion Act aims to create a continuum of behavioral health crisis services through programs and services that stabilize patients in need and engage them in appropriate continuing treatment to address the issues that led to the crisis. Specifically, this legislation will:

  • Direct the HHS to define the core regional and community-based components of the behavioral health crisis continuum of care to include 24/7 crisis hotlines and call centers, mobile crisis services, behavioral health urgent care facilities, 23-hour crisis stabilization and observation beds and short term crisis residential and stabilization services. These services must be available to all individuals, regardless of their condition or ability to pay.
  • Provide coverage of behavioral health crisis services for all patients no matter where they get their health insurance, and provide coverage and reimbursement for such services under public and commercial health insurance plans including Medicare, Medicaid, Affordable Care Act health plans, employer-sponsored coverage, VA and TRICARE, and the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program.
  • Direct $35 million in new annual grant funding under a Mental Health Block Grant set-aside for crisis services; and direct HHS to provide technical guidance to help communities develop services.
  • Establish a panel of experts to develop recommendations for training and protocols to  improve coordination among 911 dispatchers and 988 crisis hotline call centers responding to behavioral health crisis incidents.  

For more information, the bill text, section-by-section, and background page can be found on Senator Cortez Masto’s website.