September 22,2022

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Wyden, Crapo, Stabenow, Daines Unveil Mental Health Workforce Enhancement Discussion Draft

Finance Committee’s Third Bipartisan Discussion Draft on Mental Health Funds Medical Training for More Providers

Washington, D.C. – Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Ranking Member Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Senator Steve Daines (R-Mont.) today released a discussion draft of legislation aimed at expanding the mental health workforce to make it easier for Americans to get mental health care when they need it. The Senators also committed to pursue opportunities for public-private partnerships to help meet the nation’s mental health care needs.

“There is an enormous need all across the country for mental and behavioral health care, but there aren’t nearly enough providers to meet that demand. These proposals are about training new providers and finding opportunities to do more with the mental health workforce we already have. Public-private partnerships are also going to be instrumental in solving this challenge by getting private contributions into the game and wringing more value out of taxpayer dollars,” Wyden said. “Both sides of the Finance Committee are committed to this mental health initiative, and I want to thank Ranking Member Crapo and Senators Stabenow and Daines who were instrumental in writing this draft. The committee’s going to keep at it in the coming weeks and months ahead to release drafts related to crisis care and making mental health parity a reality in federal programs.”

“Maintaining a strong mental health workforce with the capacity to care for all who need services is crucial, particularly as health care professional burnout, steep regulatory demands, and other strains jeopardize long-term provider retention and capacity,” Crapo said.  “By investing in our workforce, we can foster a more resilient, accessible mental health system.”

“Earlier this year, we came together to pass transformative community mental health care for the country. Now we must invest in the workforce that is needed to achieve our goals of quality mental health and addiction services for all Americans who need them. Thank you to Senator Daines, Chairman Wyden, and Ranking Member Crapo for being great partners and committing to get this done,” said Stabenow.

“Access to mental health services is critical for our rural communities and veterans—especially in states like Montana, where we unfortunately have one of the highest suicide rates in the nation,” Daines said. “We must ensure our health care workforce have the tools and resources they need to serve Montanans across our state. I’m glad to work on a bipartisan plan to empower and expand the mental health care workforce which will help ensure that no matter where you live, you have access to life-saving mental health services.”

The discussion draft includes policies that would:

  • Add 400 new physician residency positions funded by Medicare to teaching hospitals for training new physicians in psychiatry and psychiatry subspecialties.
  • Update the Medicare guarantee by providing coverage of marriage and family therapist services and mental health counselor services for the first time under Part B of the Medicare program.
  • Expand access to certain clinical social worker services under the Medicare program.
  • Expand Medicare's Health Professional Shortage Area bonus program to attract more mental health care providers to shortage areas, including many rural communities.
  • Create a demonstration project to increase behavioral health provider capacity under the Medicaid program.
  • Require Medicaid to produce new guidance to states on increasing the mental health workforce. 
  • Make it easier for patients to see psychologist trainees by providing flexibility in Medicare’s direct supervision requirements.

This discussion draft on the mental health workforce is the third legislative draft the Finance Committee has released since kicking off its bipartisan mental health initiative. The first, released in May, focused on telehealth policies. The second, released in June, focused on youth mental health. Other discussion drafts may be released. The committee is committed to fully paying for any mental health package with bipartisan, consensus-driven offsets. 

A summary of the provisions is available here.

The full text of the discussion draft is available here