Reps. Smith, Bush, Cárdenas, Porter Lead Colleagues in Requesting $100 Million for Mental Health Crisis Response Teams
March 29, 2023
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Representatives Adam Smith (D-Wash.), Cori Bush (D-Mo.), Tony Cárdenas (D-Calif.), and Katie Porter (D-Calif.) sent a letter with 54 of their colleagues to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies requesting $100 million be included in the Fiscal Year (FY) 2024 appropriations bill for mental health crisis response teams. These emergency response programs divert mental health crisis calls from law enforcement to teams of specialized service providers.
“Encouraging the use of behavioral health professionals to respond to mental health crisis situations improves the quality of mental health crisis response and strengthens public safety by providing long term solutions to mental health and substance use issues,” the members wrote.
“The overwhelming majority of 911 calls involve mental health and substance use incidents, neighbor disputes, nuisance complaints, and requests for wellness checks where trained, unarmed behavioral health professionals could effectively respond. Both the police and policing reform advocates often assert that specialized service providers—such as social workers, paramedics, and peer support counselors—are better equipped to handle such situations than armed officers.”
The members continued, “For some local governments, however, establishing and growing mental health crisis response teams is cost prohibitive given the resources it takes to cover training, personnel, and equipment. Additional federal funding could go a long way in offsetting costs and spurring growth of these programs across the country.”
The members concluded, “It is critical that we make investments in public safety programs that center mental health care and work to resolve the underlying conditions of so many emergency calls—homelessness, substance use, and other chronic health issues. Existing 911 response limited to police, fire, or EMT services have been overwhelmed and simply do not meet the needs of the communities they serve.”
Read the full letter here.
Rep. Smith led a similar effort last year that resulted in a $20 million set-aside for Mental Health Crisis Response grants in the FY 2023 government funding bill signed into law by President Biden.
Earlier in March, Rep. Smith introduced the bipartisan 911 Community Crisis Responders Act, which would create a grant program for states, tribes, and localities to create and expand mobile crisis response programs. Learn more about the 911 Community Crisis Responders Act here.