REPS. KATKO & NAPOLITANO INTRODUCE BIPARTISAN LEGISLATION TO ADDRESS SHORTAGE IN MENTAL HEALTH WORKFORCE

July 30, 2018
Press Release

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

“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.”

“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 the same opportunities as 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.”

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.”

“This type of legislation is sorely needed and would help in our mission to treat those with psychiatric problems,” said Thomas Schwartz, M.D., Senior Associate Dean of Education, Interim Chair and Professor of Psychiatry at SUNY Upstate Medical University.  “For example, we have immense shortages of clinicians available to treat those suffering from addiction, depression, suicidality - all of which are epidemic and affecting individuals, families, our workforces, our communities and our country.  We need more providers to help our mission to lower the burden and suffering of mental illness in the US. This plan would help.”

“We in the Central New York Chapter applaud Representatives Katko and Napolitano for their work on this legislation. Our nation faces a shortage of health care clinicians, especially those who provide services to people with mental health needs. This proposed legislation will address this shortage in a unique and innovative way. Leaders like Katko and Napolitano are taking action to address a need that is critically important to their constituents and to Americans everywhere,” said Missy Stolfi, Area Director for the Western & Central New York Chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

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