Katko, Watson Coleman Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Promote Access to Mental Healthcare for Minority Communities In CNY

Washington –  U.S. Reps. John Katko (R, NY-24) and Bonnie Watson Coleman (D, NJ-12)  announced the introduction of the Pursuing Equity in Mental Healthcare Act, bipartisan legislation that works to promote access to mental healthcare for minority communities in Central New York and across the country. Companion legislation is set to be introduced in the Senate by U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ).

In 2018, the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Pediatrics published a report that found that for the first time in the history of such research, the rate of suicides for Black children between the ages of five and 12 has exceeded that of White children, and more than a third of elementary school-aged suicides involved Black children. A 2019 study published in the American Academy of Pediatrics’ journal Pediatrics found that self-reported suicide attempts rose in Black teenagers, even as they fell in other groups; and further analysis of the data found these attempts rose 73 percent between 1997 and 2017. The Pursuing Equity in Mental Healthcare Act would combat these growing disparities in mental health access and increasing suicide rates among minority youth by authorizing $805 million in funds to support research, improve the pipeline of culturally competent providers, build outreach programs that reduce stigma, and develop a training program for providers to effectively manage mental health disparities.

“I’m proud to join this bipartisan, bicameral effort to promote access to mental healthcare services for minority communities in Central New York and across the country,” said Rep. Katko. “Studies show that minority communities suffer disproportionally from the lack of access to quality mental healthcare. Our bill takes aim at these inequities by providing funding to expand the pipeline of providers in underserved areas. The bill also provides vital support to improve outreach and training programs designed to combat disparities and reduce the stigma associated with seeking treatment for mental health disorders.”

“The crisis of climbing youth suicide rates existed before the onset of the COVID-19 crisis but has no doubt intensified as so many minority youth have lost friends and family members as the coronavirus has decimated their communities,” said Rep. Watson Coleman. “I’m grateful to Congressman Katko for joining me in the effort to combat this crisis and see to it that all of our youth, no matter their background, have access to the mental health care they need.”

The Pursuing Equity in Mental Health Act is cosponsored by 48 Members of Congress and is endorsed by The American Psychological Association, The American Psychiatric Association, The Trevor Project, The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Mental Health America, Sandy Hook Promise, The American Association of Psychoanalysis in Clinical Social Work, The Jed Foundation, and the Mental Wealth Alliance.