“The Mental Health Matters Act delivers the resources that students, workers, and families need to improve their well-being.”
WASHINGTON – Today, House Education and Labor Committee Chairman Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (VA-03) submitted the following remarks in support of H.R. 7780, the Mental Health Matters Act, into the Congressional Record.
“I rise today in strong support of the Mental Health Matters Act, led by the gentleman from California, Mr. DeSaulnier.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the mental health crisis among students, workers, and families.
“In 2021, over 44 percent of students experienced persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness; almost 20 percent seriously considered suicide; and 9 percent actually attempted suicide. Regrettably, 80 percent of youth in need of mental health services do not have access in their communities.
“As a result, educators have been forced to play an outsized role in supporting and responding to students’ mental health needs, leading to increased depression and trauma among educators. However, our schools do not have the specialized staff necessary to respond to the increased prevalence and complexity of students’ mental health needs.
“According to a 2019 ACLU study, no state met the student-to-social worker ratio of one social worker to every 250 students, as recommended by the National Association of Social Workers. Furthermore, the national ratio of school psychologists per students during the 2020-2022 school years was one psychologist per every 1,100 students—more than double the ratio recommended by the National Association of School Psychologists.
“The rise in mental health challenges is not isolated to students and educators. Nearly half of the U.S. workforce now suffers from mental health issues since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
“Yet, many workers are denied the mental health and substance abuse disorder benefits they are legally entitled to receive under their employer-sponsored health plan.
“In a recent report to Congress, the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and the Treasury found widespread violations of the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act by group health plans and insurers who are failing to maintain parity between mental health and substance abuse disorder benefits and physical health benefits. “Further, the report recommended that Congress enhance the Secretary of Labor’s capacity to enforce the parity law, including providing the authority to impose civil monetary penalties for violations. Notably, this same recommendation was made by former President Trump’s Commission on Combatting the Opioid Crisis, which was led by then-Governor Chris Christie.
“In response to these violations and the national mental health crisis, the Chair of the Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions, Mr. DeSaulnier, introduced the Mental Health Matters Act, which includes proposals championed by several Committee Members.
“This legislation: helps Head Start agencies implement evidence-based interventions to improve the behavioral health of children and staff wellness; improves trauma-informed services in schools by developing innovative initiatives to link schools and local educational agencies with local trauma-informed support and mental health systems; requires colleges and universities to accept existing documentation of disability and provide reasonable accommodations so that disabled students can achieve success in higher education; provides the Department of Labor with enhanced authority to ensure that private, employer-sponsored group health plans and insurers fulfill their responsibility to provide mental health and substance abuse disorder benefits; strengthens protections to ensure workers receive behavioral health care and other benefits they have earned under their job-based plans; and, finally, directs the Department of Education to award grants to build a pipeline of school-based mental health services providers and increase the number of mental health professionals serving in elementary and secondary schools in high-need areas.
“Simply put, the Mental Health Matters Act delivers the resources that students, workers, and families need to improve their well-being.
“I want to thank the gentleman from California, Mr. DeSaulnier, for championing the bill. I also want to thank those that had sponsored bills that were included in this legislation: the gentlelady from California, Ms. Chu, the gentlelady from Massachusetts, Assistant Speaker Clark, the gentlelady from Connecticut, Ms. Hayes, the gentlelady from Oregon, Ms. Bonamici, the gentleman from Connecticut, Mr. Courtney, and the gentleman from New Jersey, Mr. Norcross, for their leadership in helping to put together this legislation.”
Contact: Democratic Press Office, 202-226-0853
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