facebook linkedin twitter

Pending Legislation Seeks to Confront Mental Health Crisis from COVID-19

July 1, 2020 by Tom Ramstack

WASHINGTON – A psychologist and psychiatrist on Tuesday suggested Congress provide stronger federal intervention to prevent a mental health crisis during the coronavirus pandemic.

They said suicides and substance abuse are on the upswing as Americans struggle with quarantines, social distancing and deaths of relatives.

“We need to start providing services to people before they’re in crisis,” Arthur C. Evans, Jr., chief executive officer of the American Psychological Association, told the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

The Disaster Distress Helpline, supported by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration, recently reported an 891% increase in call volume in March 2020 compared with one year earlier.

“Our health as a nation, both physical and mental, will be tested in the days ahead,” Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., said during the congressional hearing.

Currently there are 22 bills pending in Congress to cope with mental health challenges.

Support for all or some of them differs widely among individual Republican and Democratic lawmakers.

Some of the bills would expand “telehealth,” or consulting with doctors by telephone and Internet. Others would allow a broader range of mental health counseling services to be paid through Medicare.

Yet another would fund teams to do mental health screening and provide counseling for students at their schools.

Psychological research mentioned during the congressional hearing said school-age teenagers and young adults are in the highest risk group for suicide and substance abuse.

A key witness was Jeffrey L. Geller, president of the American Psychiatric Association, who cautioned that all of the proposed solutions will cost the government more money.

“While it’s going to cost more upfront,” Geller said, there will be “downstream savings.”

Congress allocated $425 million to behavioral health this year in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, also known as the CARES Act. The law is designed to address the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

An investment in mental health would result in fewer people going to emergency rooms, less substance abuse by depressed persons and a reduction in suicides, Geller said.

“In the COVID-19 pandemic era, Americans are now grappling with one of the worst unemployment rates in recent history, added to social isolation in order to comply with physical distancing recommendations and topped off with the unfolding communal unrest regarding systemic racism and police brutality,” Geller said in his testimony. “Each of these situations alone would generally increase the feelings of anxiety, depression and other mental health and [emotional distress] for many Americans. When combined, these factors produce alarming statistics.”

He quoted a Mental Health America survey showing that in February about 10% of the over 211,000 people who answered the online questions indicated they had contemplated suicide or harming themselves.

“These symptoms of increased anxiety, depression and self-harm are attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Geller said.

Former congressman Patrick Kennedy, founder of the Kennedy Forum, a behavioral health advocacy group, told the committee the COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated how the federal government has underfunded mental health.

Kennedy admitted that he has struggled with his own mental health, including a substance abuse problem that started when he was young.

He said mental health programs funded through Medicaid are likely to suffer as their tax revenue declines during the current economic downturn. States are expected to endure billions of dollars in cuts to Medicaid next year.

“It all revolves around the money,” Kennedy said about addressing a potential mental health crisis.

Mental Health

October 20, 2021
by Alexa Hornbeck
Middle-Aged Women at Higher Risk of ‘Broken Heart’ Syndrome

LOS ANGELES - A new study from researchers from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center appears to confirm what many have long argued:... Read More

LOS ANGELES - A new study from researchers from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center appears to confirm what many have long argued: That a “broken heart” really can lead to long-term heart injury. “We know from other studies the heart-brain connection is very strong, but this is one... Read More

October 15, 2021
by Reece Nations
Texas Removes LGBTQ Youth Suicide Hotline After Primary Challenger Goads Abbott

AUSTIN, Texas — The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services has taken down a webpage that offered resources to... Read More

AUSTIN, Texas — The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services has taken down a webpage that offered resources to LGBTQ youth after criticism was leveled at Gov. Greg Abbott by a primary challenger for its inclusion. Former Texas state Sen. Don Huffines, who announced his... Read More

October 7, 2021
by Alexa Hornbeck
Eating Within Consistent 10-Hour Window Reduces Risk of Chronic Diseases

Researchers from the UC San Diego School of Medicine and Salk Institute conducted a review of time-restricted eating that shows... Read More

Researchers from the UC San Diego School of Medicine and Salk Institute conducted a review of time-restricted eating that shows eating within an 8-10-hour window can reduce the risk of chronic diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease.  “Just like to be productive we plan our... Read More

October 6, 2021
by Alexa Hornbeck
Mental Health Practices Are Changing in Work Places

A new report from Mind Share Partners, a non-profit changing the culture of workplace mental health, finds that there has... Read More

A new report from Mind Share Partners, a non-profit changing the culture of workplace mental health, finds that there has been an increase in employees leaving jobs for mental health reasons, and companies are taking new steps to address employee's mental health. As a follow-up to... Read More

COVID-Related Attacks Prompt Hospital to Issue Panic Buttons

Nurses and hundreds of other staff members will soon begin wearing panic buttons at a Missouri hospital where assaults on... Read More

Nurses and hundreds of other staff members will soon begin wearing panic buttons at a Missouri hospital where assaults on workers tripled after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Cox Medical Center Branson is using grant money to add buttons to identification badges worn by up... Read More

Is John Hinckley, Who Shot Reagan, No Longer a Threat?

Lawyers are scheduled to meet in federal court on Monday to discuss whether John Hinckley Jr., the man who tried... Read More

Lawyers are scheduled to meet in federal court on Monday to discuss whether John Hinckley Jr., the man who tried to assassinate President Ronald Reagan, should be freed from court-imposed restrictions including overseeing his medical care and keeping up with his computer passwords. Since Hinckley, 66,... Read More

News From The Well
scroll top