House Unanimously Passes Dr. Ruiz’s Bill to Help Expand Access to Mental Health Care

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. House of Representatives this week unanimously passed Congressman Raul Ruiz’s bill, H.R. 1205, the Improving Mental Health Access from the Emergency Department Act of 2021.

Individuals who end up in the emergency department for acute mental health episodes frequently face challenges receiving the long-term care they need simply because emergency departments often lack the resources to identify and secure appropriate care. The bill authorizes $75 million over the next five years for a grant program to help Emergency Departments create, support, or expand programs that will help patients transition to the appropriate follow-on care.

In times of psychological crisis, many individuals turn to local emergency departments for care. In fact, mental illness and substance use disorders are involved in one of eight emergency department visits by a U.S. adult, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Unfortunately, with growing demand due to rising rates of substance abuse and suicide, in addition to frequent shortages in psychiatric beds, patients can remain in emergency departments for hours, sometimes days, as appropriate mental health care is sought.

H.R. 1205, the Improving Mental Health Access from the Emergency Department Act of 2021, establishes a grant program to help enable Emergency Departments to implement innovative approaches to securing follow-on care for patients who have experienced an acute mental health episode and been in the care of the department.

Examples of qualifying programs include:

  • Increased telepsychiatry support;
  • Expanded number of inpatient psychiatric beds;
  • Transportation services from the hospital to the location of the follow-on care;
  • Increased coordination with regional service providers;
  • Regional bed availability tracking and management programs.

“I am glad that the House passed my bill with overwhelming bipartisan support to improve access to mental health care at a time when Americans need it most,” Ruiz, CA-36, said in a prepared statement.  “As an emergency physician, I know the barriers to getting mental health patients the follow up care they need. The Improving Mental Health Access from the Emergency Department Act will help people who end up in the ER suffering from an acute mental health episode get the care they need to feel better and live happy, healthy lives. I will continue working to get this bill passed in the Senate and to the President’s desk.”

Ruiz’s bill passed the House during Mental Health Awareness Month – a time to raise awareness and fight the stigma around mental health.





Image Sources

  • Mental health: Shutterstock