Congress Continues Focus on Mental Health in Subcommittee Hearing
On February 17, the House Energy and Commerce Oversight Subcommittee held a hearing to discuss the national mental health crisis and plans to address it. The hearing, overseen by Subcommittee Chair Diana DeGette (D-CO) and Ranking Member Morgan Griffith (R-VA), is the third Congressional hearing in the past month focused on potential policy solutions related to mental health (see previous coverage for more details). The witnesses present at the hearing were American Psychiatric Association member and vice-chair of psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco Dr. Lisa Fortuna, assistant professor of psychiatry and human behavior at Brown University Dr. Jacqueline Nesi, CEO and executive director of the Trevor Project Amit Paley, co-founder of the Defensive Line Christopher Thomas, and former assistant Health and Human Services (HHS) secretary for mental health and substance abuse Dr. Elinore McCance-Katz.
Subcommittee Chair DeGette focused her opening statement on how the mental health crisis has disproportionately affected marginalized individuals, particularly people of color, members of the LGBTQ community, people with disabilities, and youth. Ranking Member Griffith focused his opening statement on issues of accessibility related to mental health care and how the intersection of substance use and the mental health crisis should be addressed. Many of these themes were repeated in the opening statements of the witnesses, who emphasized the particularly damaging effects of the mental health crisis on children, particularly in marginalized communities. Additionally, many of the witnesses stated the importance of increasing accessibility to mental health coverage for the American people and the discussed the benefits of telehealth services. While some Subcommittee members focused their questions on the effects of masking on mental health, most members asked about ways to best address the nation’s mental health needs, what can be done to support marginalized groups, and how to best serve Americans who are experiencing mental health crises. Subcommittee Chair DeGette concluded the hearing by stating the committee’s bipartisan interest in reauthorizing programs under the committee’s jurisdiction as well as expressing the committee’s interest in championing future legislation to address the mental health crisis. A recording of the hearing is available on the Subcommittee website.