Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) led their Senate colleagues in introducing the bicameral Pursuing Equity in Mental Health Act. This bill would address growing issues of suicide and mental health facing young people, particularly in socially and economically disadvantaged communities that have disproportionately faced disparities in access to mental health treatment and outcomes during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Ever since COVID-19 hit, Nevadans from every corner of our state have been talking to me about the mental health challenges that they and their families are facing—and students especially have suffered from the isolation of this pandemic,” said Sen. Cortez Masto. “Young people in our communities of color face unique challenges in accessing mental and behavioral health care, and we need to make sure they have access to the mental health support they need. I’ll continue working in the Senate to destigmatize mental health issues and make sure everyone in Nevada can get care if they’re struggling.”
“If we, as elected officials, truly believe that today’s young people are the future of our great nation, then we must do everything in our power to address the unmet mental health challenges jeopardizing that future, especially in minority communities,” said Sen. Menendez. “This issue requires more than rhetoric; it demands decisive action. This legislation ensures that public health agencies prioritize tackling issues of mental health and suicide, as well as longstanding disparities that exist in mental health access for communities of color that continue to bear the disproportionate brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is my sincere hope that together, with colleagues on both sides of the aisle, we can finally address this racial inequity in our mental health care system.”
“The COVID-19 pandemic has both exposed and exacerbated the deep-seated disparities that Black and Brown communities face in access and outcomes related to all types of health care, including mental health care,” said Sen. Booker. “As we work to address and dismantle structural racial inequities in our health care system, we must prioritize expanding access to mental health care and services. The Mental Health Equity Act is an important step forward to ensuring that quality, affordable mental health care is accessible in and to every community.”
The Pursuing Equity in Mental Health Act expands mental health access for diverse communities by supporting scientific research and increasing funding for existing federal programs. This legislation also provides grant funding over a period of five years to establish inter-professional health care teams at community health centers, rural health clinics, and behavioral health programs that predominantly serve people of color, and to develop cultural competency educational curricula for health professionals to help bridge the gap in racial and LGBTQ+ youth mental health disparities.
Senator Cortez Masto has led efforts in the Senate to address the student mental health and suicide crisis, working closely with students in Nevada, and has called on the Biden administration to work with her to launch a coordinated, all-of-government response to the challenges facing our students. Cortez Masto is leading legislation specifically to help students and other groups experiencing heightened challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic and has introduced sweeping legislation to give Nevada communities the support they need to deliver comprehensive behavioral health services.
The bill is also supported by American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, American Psychiatric Association, Sandy Hook Promise, Trevor Project, Mental Health America, National Hispanic Medical Association, Silver State Equality (SSEQ) in Nevada, and Mental Health Association in New Jersey.
In the Senate, the bill has been cosponsored by Sens. Tom Carper (D-Del.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Ben Ray Lujan (D-N.M.), and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.).
The text of the bill can be downloaded HERE.