Senate Considers, Then Pulls, Mental Health Legislation
By James Finley, Associate Executive Director and Director of Public Policy
Recently the full Senate debated gun violence legislation, but withdrew it from consideration on April 18 when it became clear the underlying bill could not pass. The Senate debated several amendments to the gun bill; one was a very modest measure to boost mental- health-service activities.
Despite strong support for the mental health amendment (95–2), the future of S. 689 is very uncertain. Mental health groups plan to continue their support, but must now seek another legislative vehicle.
AMHCA is continuing pushing for Medicare reform, focusing pressure on GOP legislators to support our endorsed bill, S.562, which adds recognition of mental health counselors under Medicare Part B. Recently the Maine Mental Health Counselors Association won an exciting victory by gaining the co-sponsorship of Sen. Susan Collins (R–Maine). A senior Republican, Collins could prove influential in advancing our efforts in the Senate.
Federal Budget Increases Mental Health Funding
The president’s budget, released recently, places a priority on mental health funding, including recognition of mental health counselors for new clinical training funds. It also includes $235 million for new programs to help identify mental health needs early and improve access to mental health services, including $30 million for research on gun violence prevention and mental health issues.