Improve Access to Mental and Behavioral Health Care

Behavioral Health

Issue: Support programs and policies that work toward integrating mental and behavioral health into the primary care setting, promote payment parity for mental health services, and address physician well-being.

Why Action is Needed

There is a public health crisis in behavioral health in the United States, as data from the National Institute of Mental Health indicate that nearly one in five U.S. adults lives with a mental illness and 40.3 million Americans have a substance use disorder. Despite these trends, Americans face significant barriers to accessing treatment, including: a lack of mental health care clinicians, increased out-of-pocket costs for behavioral health services, and a siloed health care system that fails to integrate behavioral health into primary care practices.

Physicians and other health care professionals are also experiencing a significant level of fatigue and an erosion of their well-being due to growing administrative burdens, medical debt, as well as the strain of caring for patients during a global pandemic. Physicians are also often reluctant to seek help for mental health issues because of barriers such as stigma and the professional risks associated with disclosing their treatment activities.

ACP’s Position

ACP has championed action that Congress and the Administration can take to address mental and behavioral health issues, recognizing that the urgency has grown during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the need to provide adequate resources for treatment. We support the removal of administrative burdens that may delay or deny behavioral health treatment. An important step forward was the elimination of the requirement for practitioners to have a waiver to prescribe medications for treating opioid use disorders that was included in the recently-enacted Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023.

Call to Action

  • Support legislation to improve the integration of behavioral health into primary care, expand the mental health clinician workforce, and ensure the enforcement of mental health parity in health insurance coverage.
  • Support the Collaborate in an Orderly and Cohesive Manner Act (CoCM), which was previously introduced in the 117th Congress. This bill would authorize grants through the Department of Health and Human Services to support primary care physicians’ providing behavioral health care in their practices through the Collaborative Care Model.
  • Support the Improving Access to Behavioral Health Integration Act, which was previously introduced in the 117th Congress. This bill would establish a federal grant program for primary care practices to implement evidence based behavioral health integration programs.