Las Vegas, Nev. – As part of her Virtual Nevada Tour, U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) today hosted a virtual roundtable discussion with mental health providers and organizations supporting Nevadans with mental health treatment. The COVID-19 pandemic has led to greater isolation, financial insecurity and uncertainty for Nevadans. Additionally, staff shortages are a key challenge facing mental health providers. State-certified peer support specialists, ones who use their own recovery experience and training to help others, have been seen as a way to help respond to this difficulty and provide greater support to those struggling with mental health challenges. During the roundtable, Senator Cortez Masto discussed her Virtual Peer Support Act, which aims to address these issues.
“Right now, the COVID-19 pandemic is adding so much uncertainty and stress to our lives. As I’m working in the Senate to get Nevadans the support they need, I’m making their mental health a top priority. The providers and support organizations I met with today are our frontline helpers, and they need every resource we can muster to help our neighbors, friends and family members weather what might be a particularly tough time in their lives – whether it be because of financial uncertainty, health concerns or the loss of a loved one.
“Thank you to all of the health and mental health care professionals on the frontlines helping fellow Nevadans. Please know that I’m your advocate in Washington, which is why I’ve introduced the Virtual Peer Support Act and why I support additional funding for telehealth, so that you get the reinforcements and tools you need to care for Nevadans.”
Senator Cortez Masto met virtually with mental health providers and support organizations in Nevada including:
- Robin Reedy, Executive Director, Nevada NAMI
- Dona Domitrivic, MHS, Executive Director, Foundations for Recovery
- Tina Fennel, Peer Specialist, Foundations for Recovery
- Tony Davis, Peer Support Specialist, VA Southern Nevada Healthcare System
- Krystal Hernandez, Chapter President, Southern Nevada Depression Bipolar Support Alliance
- Jennifer Bowler, BSN, RN LADC, Director of Behavior Health, Northern Nevada Hopes
- Grace Thompson, Peer Support Specialist, Northern Nevada Hopes
The toll on Americans’ mental health because of COVID-19 is expected to increase in the months ahead. Research has shown that evidence-based peer support services improve outcomes by reducing recurrence in hospitalizations, improve patients’ relationships with their health providers, reduce outpatient visits and better empower individuals in their course of treatment. Senator Cortez Masto’s Virtual Peer Support Act would help peer support organizations build capacity to provide uninterrupted virtual services to vulnerable populations through the coronavirus pandemic.
Specifically, her legislation provides $50 million in grants through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to enable eligible organizations to transition in-person behavioral health support groups to online platforms, or build out their current virtual capacity. Eligible entities include both national organizations and community-based organizations.