Reps. Wild, Bustos Introduce Legislation to Increase Mental Health Crisis Care at Critical Moment

June 11, 2020
Press Release
Crisis Care Improvement and Suicide Prevention Act of 2020 is endorsed by leading national organizations to help combat the impacts of COVID-19 on adult mental health

WASHINGTON  –Yesterday, U.S. Representatives Susan Wild (PA-07) and Cheri Bustos (IL-17) introduced the Crisis Care Improvement and Suicide Prevention Act of 2020, legislation that would allow states to upgrade crisis care programs and strategies to meet increased demand in this critical moment. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to exacerbate existing strains, like the opioid crisis, mental health needs in the United States have reached epidemic levels and have only heightened the need for comprehensive crisis services.


In March, Wild led an appropriations letter asking for FY2021 appropriations funding to properly prioritize county crisis funding and include a five percent set-aside in Mental Health Block Grants for crisis services.


“When a mental health patient is in crisis, they need immediate, evidence-based care from someone who best knows how to help. Too often, people in need of care, are directed to law enforcement or community hospital emergency departments—departments that are dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic and are not necessarily suited to address their needs,” Wild said. “That’s why I am proud to work with Rep. Bustos in creating state and county crisis systems that coordinate real-time, immediate response to provide mental health care, including 24/7 mobile crisis units that offer outreach and support and can travel to individuals in need.”


“Make no mistake, we have a mental health crisis in our country, and the current pandemic has laid bare a desperate need for access to mental health resources and support,” Bustos said. “The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly disrupted our way of life, created additional stress and made us all concerned for our physical health. But as we adapt, we cannot neglect the underlying opioid crisis and the importance of our mental health. That’s why I put forward this crucial legislation today to bolster the services available to those facing a time of crisis and meet their needs quickly. I thank Congresswoman Wild for partnering with me in this effort.”


Emergency departments and the criminal justice system do not have the capacity—with existing resources and healthcare professional shortages—to address the needs of the rapidly growing number of individuals with behavioral health conditions. For example, in 2017, 150,000 Americans died from alcohol or drug-induced fatalities and suicide. In addition, 15 percent of men and 30 percent of women in county jails have severe mental illnesses.


As a result, this legislation would provide funding for crisis care services like:

  • Crisis Call Centers – Call centers that coordinate and connect patients and families to behavioral health services in real time.  
  • Mobile Crisis Services – 24/7 mobile crisis services travel to patients offering outreach, support and referrals to appropriate care when and where people are in crisis. 
  • Crisis Stabilization Programs – Stabilization programs offering acute or sub-acute care in a hospital or facility for individuals who need support and observation.


This legislation has already been endorsed by a number of key national and local organizations, including: the American Psychiatric Association, the National Council for Behavioral Health, the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors (NASMHPD), the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, the Eating Disorders Coalition for Research, Policy & Action, and the American Psychological Association, Rosecrance in Rockford, Robert Young Center in the Quad Cities, UnityPlace in Peoria and the Illinois Association for Behavioral Health.


“Too many individuals who experience a severe mental health crisis find themselves either in costly emergency rooms waiting hours or days for appropriate care, or in jail,” said American Psychiatric Association (APA) CEO and Medical Director Saul Levin, M.D., M.P.A. “Reps. Bustos’ and Wild’s proposal will help our states and local communities create evidence-based interventions so those experiencing a mental health or substance use-related crisis can quickly receive needed care and avoid unnecessary encounters with the criminal justice system.”


“The American Psychological Association commends Reps. Bustos and Wild for stimulating greater community-based investments in the provision of comprehensive crisis care services for children and adults with severe mental health disorders through her leadership on the Crisis Care Improvement and Suicide Prevention Act of 2020”, said APA CEO Dr. Arthur C. Evans Jr. “Now more than ever, as the country battles a public health pandemic -fueling challenges to an already under-funded public mental health system - it is time to provide greater attention to the needs of individuals experiencing psychological distress with the aim of improving timely access to appropriate care, while reducing overburdened emergency rooms and unnecessary contacts with the criminal justice system.”

“We can and must do a better job of supporting people that are experiencing a mental health crisis. We know what effective crisis care looks like and Rep. Bustos and Rep. Wild’s important legislation will provide an important incentive for states to make comprehensive care available across the country.  This move will save money and save lives,” said Chuck Ingoglia, President & CEO National Council for Behavioral Health.


“Eating disorders have the second highest mortality rate among mental health diagnoses with approximately 50% of mortality attributable to suicide,” said Molly McShane, MD, MPH, CEDS, Vice President of the Eating Disorders Coalition for Research, Policy & Action. “Initial study results have shown the COVID-19 pandemic has led to an increase in eating disorder behaviors and fears of relapse. The Crisis Care Improvement and Suicide Prevention Act is critical legislation to support Americans facing mental health crises during this unprecedented time.”


“The need to commit appropriate resources to effectively respond to mental health and suicide crises has never been more evident. We applaud Rep. Bustos’ and Rep. Wild’s efforts to restore hope to our communities by dedicating this crucial set-aside to address these major public health issues,” said John H. Madigan, Senior Vice President and Chief Public Policy Officer, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.


“Crisis services are a cost-effective way to provide needed treatment for individuals with mental health or substance use issues. They provide services at the level that is needed rather than pushing people up to emergency rooms and higher level and more costly care because lower level care is not available,” said Brian Hepburn, CEO of NASMHPD.


Administered by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the federal Mental Health Block Grant provides funds to States to support mental illness prevention, treatment and rehabilitation services.