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Napolitano & Katko Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Address Shortage in Mental Health Workforce

July 30, 2018
Press Release

(WASHINGTON, DC)  Reps. Grace F. Napolitano (D-CA-32) and John Katko (R-NY-24) recently introduced H.R. 6597, the Mental Health Professionals Workforce Shortage Loan Repayment Act of 2018, bipartisan legislation to address a critical shortage in the number of mental healthcare professionals currently available in many parts of the country.

“Our bill offers future mental health professionals and clinicians the prospect of having their educational loans forgiven by providing vital services to our communities upon graduation, affording them similar opportunities to those in other medical fields,” said Rep. Napolitano. “It is time we had robust investment in mental health in America, and it starts with ensuring we have a reliable workforce to be able to deliver life-saving services to all in need, regardless of ZIP code.”

“This bipartisan legislation will incentivize students and professionals pursuing careers in mental healthcare to work in areas of our country desperately in need of more options for care,” said Rep. Katko.  “It will go a long way towards addressing the current critical shortage in the workforce and ensure more people nationwide struggling with mental illness have access to the care they need.”

Together, Napolitano and Katko chair the bipartisan Mental Health Caucus in Congress, where they promote access to mental health services for children and adolescents, improved mental health resources for veterans, and increased mental health coverage for all. Their bill, H.R. 6597, would authorize a loan repayment program for mental health professionals who work for a period of time in an area of the country experiencing a shortage of accessible care.

Arthur C. Evans Jr., PhD, CEO of the American Psychological Association stated, “The American Psychological Association commends Reps. Katko and Napolitano for introducing this critically needed legislation to help expand access to mental health services for the 105.7 million Americans living in mental health shortage areas with limited access to mental health care. With the supply of psychologists projected to be insufficient to meet the growing demand for mental health services, additional federal support for psychology workforce programs is needed to close this critical gap. As psychologists graduate with increasing levels of student debt, this legislation will reduce barriers to treatment for those in need and reduce obstacles for psychologists and other mental health professionals seeking to work in high-need communities.”

“The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention thanks Reps. John Katko and Grace Napolitano for being true champions of suicide prevention and access to mental health services,” said John H. Madigan Jr., Senior Vice President and Chief Public Policy Officer for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention/SPAN USA. “This legislation will deal with two key challenges – the shortage of trained mental health professionals and the cost of getting mental health education and training. One of the best ways to prevent suicide is to make mental health services accessible to all who need them wherever they live or work. An expanded mental health treatment workforce will go a long way in dealing effectively with the current suicide crisis in our country.”

The American Association of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) released a statement in support of the legislation stating, “With a shortage of over 20,000 child and adolescent psychiatrists nationwide, we know that this crucial legislation will make a tremendous difference in addressing our nations’ mental health workforce crisis and help provide needed mental health services to countless youth.”

If you or someone you know needs help, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255).


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