July 07, 2016

Lujan Bill to Address Shortage of Mental Health Professionals Passes as Part of Larger Mental Health Legislation

Washington, D.C. – Congressman Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico’s Third District highlighted the passage of legislation yesterday that includes language he advocated for to address the significant shortage of mental health professionals in New Mexico and across the United States.  The Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act, which passed the House with strong bipartisan support, included language based on Luján’s Peer Support Specialist Act.  Luján introduced the bill as part of a package of legislation to improve New Mexico’s behavioral health system.

“By focusing on the growing need for a well-trained workforce that meets the behavioral health needs of our communities, the legislation passed by the House is an important first step toward improving access to these vital services,” Congressman Luján said.  “Through support for the training of peer support specialists, this legislation lays the foundation to strengthen New Mexico’s behavioral health system that has been thrown into a manufactured crisis.  A robust workforce of peer specialists is needed to fill the gaps in a system that has allowed too many vulnerable New Mexicans to fall through the cracks.”

The Peer Support Specialist Act addresses the significant shortage of mental health professionals across the United States by growing the peer professional workforce through the creation of a grant program through SAMHSA to develop and sustain behavioral health paraprofessional training and education programs and provide tuition support.  The Health Resources and Services Administration designated 4,362 areas in the country as having a mental health professional shortage and estimated that another 2,700 mental health professionals are needed to meet the needs of the approximately 10 million Americans who live in one of these shortage areas.  Peer support specialists are individuals who have been through mental health treatment themselves and undergo extensive trainings to be able to support others through their treatment.  An important way to address the workforce shortage, peer support specialists support individuals in need of mental health services and their families, and have been proven to save the health care systems money be reducing unnecessary hospitalizations.

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