June 15, 2021

Senator Hassan Discusses Barriers to Mental Health Services for Granite Staters with Substance Use Disorder

During Committee Hearing, the Senator Also Highlighted Her Efforts to Prevent Youth Suicide and Expand Home- and Community-Based Care

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Maggie Hassan today discussed the challenges that people who experience substance use disorders often face in accessing critical mental health services during a Senate Finance Committee hearing.

 

To watch the Senator’s questioning, click here.

 

“The demand for mental health and substance use disorder treatment and services skyrocketed during the COVID-19 pandemic as millions of Americans grappled with grief, isolation, and economic uncertainty,” Senator Hassan said. “We’ve helped meet that demand by providing new means to access mental and behavioral services, such as telehealth […] Unfortunately, even as we moved to make it easier to access some services -- the stigma still associated with substance misuse prevents too many people from getting the behavioral health services they need.”

 

Dr. Benjamin Miller, Chief Strategy Officer of Well Being Trust, agreed with Senator Hassan, and discussed the need to make it easier for people with substance use disorder to receive treatment. Dr. Miller discussed one way to do that is by training more health professionals to recognize and treat substance use disorder in their patients, while also recognizing that many of their patients who struggle with substance misuse also likely have underlying mental health challenges.

 

Senator Hassan went on to highlight the importance of passing the STAND Up Act, bipartisan legislation that she introduced to encourage the implementation of suicide prevention trainings in schools and communities across the country to help address the rising rate of youth suicide.

 

“A report published yesterday […] by the CDC found that earlier this year, emergency department visits for suicide attempts by adolescent girls increased 51 percent on average when compared to 2019,” Senator Hassan said. “And I’ve heard directly from New Hampshire students about the mental health concerns that they have.”

 

Dr. Miller responded that it’s important to equip young people with the tools that they need to identify issues related to suicide, as well as include young people in conversations about suicide prevention.

 

“If we simply depend on our clinical workforce to address the demand, especially with our youth, we will fail,” Dr. Miller said.   

 

Additionally, Senator Hassan spoke about her successful efforts to increase federal funding for home- and community-based Medicaid services under the American Rescue Plan. These services can play a key role in supporting individuals’ mental health needs.   

 

Thomas Betlach, MPA, Partner at Speire Healthcare Strategies and Former Arizona Medicaid Director and Single State Authority Director for Mental Health and Substance Abuse, Arizona Department of Health Services, told the Senator, “The investment that you made is really a once in a generational investment in terms of where states are at and the ability to leverage that 10 percent home- and community- based bump.”

 

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