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Tonko, Katko, Klobuchar & Kaine Introduce Bill to Improve COVID-19 Response for Mental Health

Legislation directs research into impacts of pandemic on mental health, especially for frontline health workers and children

  • Rep. Paul Tonko

WASHINGTON—Representatives Paul D. Tonko (D-NY) and John Katko (R-NY) and Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Timothy Kaine (D-VA) today introduced the  COVID-19 Mental Health Research Act, legislation that would fund research to study the effects the COVID-19 pandemic has on the mental health of Americans, with an emphasis on its impact on children and health care providers.

This bill introduction comes just days ahead of an open press mental health impact forum Rep. Tonko is hosting with Sen. Klobuchar this Thursday with frontline nurses and human services organizations likely to be impacted by this legislation.

“Rebuilding America after this pandemic will take more than vaccines and concrete, it will take a rigorous focus on the toll this pandemic has taken on every American, especially for our health care workers who continue to serve bravely on the frontlines of this crisis,” Congressman Tonko said. “Every day they show up to work, they risk exposure to this deadly virus and shoulder an unimaginable emotional burden for us, all to keep our families and communities safe. We need to do more to support them and make sure we work to understand even the hidden costs they are bearing. Our Mental Health Research Act undertakes this vital—and frankly overdue—work to examine the mental health impacts of COVID-19 especially for our medical professionals, emergency responders and others. I urge my colleagues in the House and Senate to join us in pushing this smart bipartisan legislation forward and deliver hope, understanding and a path forward for the Americans who need it most.”

“The pandemic has had significant negative consequences on the mental health of so many Americans and especially on frontline healthcare providers. That’s why, I’m introducing the COVID-19 Mental Health Research Act,” said Congressman Katko. “This bipartisan, bicameral bill will fund targeted research to strengthen our nation’s mental health response and examine the toll of this pandemic on frontline healthcare workers. The bill will also provide crucial funding for suicide prevention research and assess the long-term impacts of COVID-19 stressors on mental health.”

“As we continue to respond to the coronavirus pandemic, we must focus not only on physical health, but also on mental health and well-being,” said Senator Klobuchar. “Health care workers have led our communities through this crisis, with many feeling acute stress and anxiety. Children, adolescents, and seniors have also been uniquely impacted. To understand how we can best support them -- and all Americans -- through this difficult time, we must assess the scope of this mental health crisis and take steps to promote recovery and healing.” 

“From day one of this pandemic, I have been concerned about the impacts on Americans’ mental health, now and in the years to come,” said Senator Kaine. “I have been especially concerned about our most vulnerable, and have been deeply troubled by the stories I continue to hear from frontline health care providers struggling with burnout, stress, anxiety, depression, and trauma. This legislation is a crucial first step in helping us understand COVID-19’s impact on providers’ mental health, and helping us identify where additional action may be needed.”

Rep. Tonko has long championed mental health services as a critical part of building a sound, resilient and high-quality American health care system, work he has continued throughout the current pandemic. Last year, he led a bipartisan letter to Speaker Pelosi calling for a federal COVID response to address mental health impacts. Following his letter, the CARES Act rescue plan included $425 million for emergency mental health and substance use services, along with $50 million for suicide prevention program.

Last month, Rep. Tonko reintroduced his bipartisan Medicaid Reentry Act, which would empowers states to restore access to addiction and mental health treatment through Medicaid for incarcerated individuals up to 30 days before their release.

Supporting organizations include: 2020 Mom; A New PATH (Parents for Addiction Treatment and Healing); American Art Therapy Association; American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy; American Association for Psychoanalysis in Clinical Social Work; American Association of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry; American Association of Suicidology; American Association on Health and Disability; American Counseling Association; American Dance Therapy Association; American Foundation for Suicide Prevention; American Group Psychotherapy Association; American Mental Health Counselors Association; American Nurses Association; American Occupational Therapy Association; American Psychiatric Association; American Psychological Association; Anxiety and Depression Association of America; Association for Ambulatory Behavioral Healthcare; Association for Behavioral Health and Wellness; Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder; Clinical Social Work Association; College of Psychiatric and Neurologic Pharmacists; Confederation of Independent Psychoanalytic Societies (CIPS); Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance; Eating Disorders Coalition for Research, Policy & Action; Education Development Center; EMDR International Association; Families USA; Global Alliance for Behavioral Health and Social Justice; Greater New York Hospital Association; Healthcare Association of New York State; The Jewish Federations of North America; International OCD Foundation; International Society For Psychiatric Mental Health Nurses; The Kennedy Forum; Lakeshore Foundation; Legal Action Center; Mental Health America; Mental Health Association of New York State, Inc.; Mental Health Liaison Group (MHLG); Moms United to End the War on Drugs; NAADAC, the Association for Addiction Professionals; National Alliance on Mental Illness; National Alliance to Advance Adolescent Health; National Association for Behavior Healthcare; National Association for Children's Behavioral Health (NACBH); National Association for Rural Mental Health; National Association of County Behavioral Health & Developmental Disability Directors; National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners; National Association of Social Workers; National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors; National Center of Excellence for Eating Disorders; National Disability Rights Network; National Eating Disorders Association; National Federation of Families for Children’s Mental Health (NFFCMH); National League for Nursing; National Safety Council; New York State Coalition for Children's Behavioral Health; New York State Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare; Postpartum Support International; Psychotherapy Action Network Advocacy; Residential Eating Disorders Consortium; SARDAA Schizophrenia and Related Disorders Alliance; School Social Work Association of America; SMART Recovery; Society of General Internal Medicine; The Global Alliance for Behavioral Health and Social Justice; The Kennedy Forum; The Trevor Project; Treatment Communities of America; Well Being Trust


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