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Napolitano Applauds House Passage of Bill Ensuring Mental Health Services Among Humanitarian Standards of Care for Detained Individuals

July 25, 2019
Press Release

(WASHINGTON, DC)  Today, Rep. Grace F. Napolitano (CA-32) issued the following statement after the House passed H.R. 3239, the Humanitarian Standards for Individuals in Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Custody Act:

“I am so grateful to Congressman Ruiz for including mental health among the critical standards of care for all individuals detained, especially children. We have all be horrified by the images of overcrowded, squalid conditions at CBP facilities—which are absolutely unacceptable—yet they only show a part of the nightmare; less visible is the suffering occurring inside of these individuals. Many asylum seekers have endured trauma in their home countries because of violence and threats against themselves or their families. This is why mental health screenings must be administered when an individual is first detained at a CBP facility. Requiring professional training for personnel to detect warning signs and symptoms of mental illness is also vital. It should not take an act of Congress to require CBP to deliver these basic humanitarian standards of care, but the Trump administration’s failures, which have led to the deaths of three children and seven adults, leave us no choice but to act. We have an obligation to protect the health and safety of asylum seekers and CBP officers, and to prevent further tragic deaths. We will continue to demand full accountability of this administration as we call for humane alternatives to family detention and work toward achieving true comprehensive immigration reform.”

Napolitano is the founder and Co-Chair of the Congressional Mental Health Caucus and an original cosponsor of H.R. 3239, which is authored by Rep. Raul Ruiz (CA-36). H.R. 3239 passed the House last evening by a vote of 233 to 195 and now goes to the Senate for consideration.

H.R. 3239 is supported by the American Academy of Pediatrics, Academic Pediatric Association, American Pediatric Society, American Association of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, American College of Physicians, American Medical Association, American Psychological Association, Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine, Pediatric Policy Council, Society for Pediatric Research, and National Education Association.

Key Mental Health Provisions in H.R. 3239:

  1. Initial Health Screening Protocols Section:
    1. Initial Screening and Medical Assessment—The Commissioner shall ensure that any individual who is detained in the custody of CBP receives an initial in-person screening by a licensed medical professional to assess and identify any illness, condition, or age-appropriate mental or physical symptoms that may have resulted from distressing or traumatic experiences;
    2. High Priority Individuals—The initial screening and medical assessment shall take place as soon as practicable, but not later than 6 hours after a detainee’s arrival at a CBP facility if the individual reasonably self identifies as having a medical condition that requires prompt medical attention or is exhibiting signs of acute or potentially severe physical or mental illness, or otherwise has an acute or chronic physical or mental disability or illness;
    3. Further Care for Psychological and Mental Care—The Commissioner shall ensure that detainees who have experienced physical or sexual violence or who have experienced events that may cause severe trauma or toxic stress, are provided access to basic, humane, and supportive psychological assistance; 
    4. Personnel—The Commissioner or the Administrator of General Services shall ensure that each location to which detainees are first transported after an initial encounter has onsite at least one licensed medical professional to conduct health screenings. Other personnel that are or may be necessary for carrying out the functions, such as mental health professionals, shall be located on site to the extent practicable, or if not practicable, shall be available on call.
  2. Training Section: The Commissioner shall ensure that CBP personnel assigned to each short-term custodial facility are professionally trained, including continuing education as the Commissioner deems appropriate, in all subjects necessary to ensure compliance with this Act, including humanitarian response protocols and standards; indicators of physical and mental illness, and medical distress in children and adults.


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