December 11, 2018
WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (Mo.) spoke on the Senate floor about how his Excellence in Mental Health Act has improved and expanded mental health services and benefited law enforcement in Missouri. The Excellence in Mental Health Act, which was signed into law in 2014, created a demonstration program to put community mental health centers on an equal footing with other health centers by improving quality standards, fully funding community services, and offering patients increased services like 24-hour crisis psychiatric care, counseling and integrated services for mental health treatment. Missouri is one of eight states selected to participate in the demonstration program created under the Excellence in Mental Health Act.
Following Are Blunt’s Full Remarks:
“For too long, law enforcement and emergency room personnel have been, in effect, the de facto mental health delivery system for the country. The National Institutes of Health says that one in five Americans have a mental health or behavioral health issue and that one in nine adult Americans has a behavioral health issue that impacts how they live every single day. Two Congresses ago … Senator Stabenow and I worked to pass legislation, the Excellence in Mental Health Act. What that did was create eight state demonstration projects that would last for two years each to see what would happen if treated mental health like all other health, something that everybody knows, I believe, we should have been doing, something that in eight states we are doing, and, Mr. President, the good news was that 24 states, a number that exceeded every discussion that anybody had about how many states would step forward and say, ‘we'd like to be the states that try to do this first.’ Twenty-four states applied. I was certainly proud that Missouri was one of the eight states chosen to be in the demonstration project. We're about halfway through the two-year project, and in our state and in the seven other states, people have access to mental health services that they didn't have before.
“Most Missourians are within a relatively short drive of a facility that will treat their mental health problem like it was any other health problem. And as we begin to do that, I think we're going to see the kind of impact on law enforcement and the kind of help that law enforcement needs as well. Just a couple of years ago, I rode with both the crisis intervention teams in Kansas City and in my hometown in Springfield. In Springfield, what I saw there was officers dealing with a 24/7 linkup to the Burrell Mental Health Clinic, the local and regional mental health provider. Sixteen officers at that time had in effect, Mr. President, iPads, that linked them up to a mental health professional. Didn't take too long, and I think this would be indicative of what most law enforcement officials see almost every day. It didn't take too long before we came on someone huddled in the alcove of a building that was vacant who clearly had a behavioral health problem, wasn't at that point a drug problem or an alcohol problem. They were where they were because they had a mental health problem. The officer was able to Skype back immediately with a mental health professional. What I was really most interested in, even with a well-trained officer who knew exactly what they were doing and how to do it, even with that officer there, as that officer linked the person up with someone, in effect, a telemedicine linkup with a mental health professional, you could tell that person was more comfortable talking to the iPad and communicating that way than he was with the officer that was right there with him. And it wasn't because the officer was in any way intimidating or unprofessional, but it was just because of what it was, a linkup with someone at another site, but someone who clearly was well-prepared to deal with those kinds of issues.
“So we're going to see that benefited, the kind of things that the mental health community can do to provide more resources to the law enforcement community under Excellence in Mental Health is providing a service, and I think producing real results. And I'd also say, as I conclude my remarks on this topic, what we hope to see is a significant number of people, and remember, I said NIH said one out of five adult Americans has a behavioral health issue. What happens when you deal with that behavioral health issue in terms of how you deal with all the other health issues that that individual or that community would be dealing with? What happens if somebody is feeling better about themselves, taking their medicine, eating better, sleeping better, showing up for the doctor's appointment, showing up for the dialysis appointment, doing what they ought to be doing? I believe what we're going to find and what's been found in earlier big county studies of this kind, is that actually doing the right thing winds up saving money, not costing money. But also doing the right thing for police officers, for people in emergency rooms, for providing the kinds of connections and alternatives needed, make a big difference. And for all of the health care providers and the law enforcement individuals involved, I'm grateful for what they do, and I think we're seeing some real results from the bill that this body passed, President Obama signed, now in law, and producing great results. And with that, Mr. President, I would yield the floor.”
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