Washington, D.C. – Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and seven other senators including U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) today proposed a bill to help states adopt mobile crisis response teams that can be dispatched when a person is experiencing a mental health or substance use disorder (SUD) crisis instead of immediately involving law enforcement. The funding is provided through an enhanced federal match rate for state Medicaid programs.
“I’m proud there is a down payment on CAHOOTS in the emergency relief package moving through Congress now,” Wyden said. “Every day there are stories across the country of Americans in mental distress getting killed or mistreated because they did not receive the emergency mental health services they needed. White Bird Clinic in Eugene, Oregon has been a pioneer for years in this area, and it’s high time the CAHOOTS model is made available to states and local governments across the country. I am eager to get the down payment signed into law and continue working to get further investments in mobile crisis services made under the bill across the finish line.”
“This bill is an important step in equipping our communities with the resources to appropriately respond to mental health crises—providing an immediate health care response, rather than sending law enforcement to a medical emergency,” Merkley said. “I was honored to recognize White Bird’s CAHOOTS program at my Lane County town hall in 2019, and we need more communities to be able to adopt their successful mobile response model.”
Earlier this month, the House Energy and Commerce Committee included provision in its budget reconciliation language for COIVD-19 relief that makes an investment in these services by funding state Medicaid programs at an enhanced 85 percent federal match if they choose to provide qualifying community-based crisis intervention services and funding state planning grants to apply for the option. The pandemic has taken a serious toll on the mental health and wellbeing of Americans with studies showing a four-fold increase in the rates of anxiety and depressive disorders since the beginning of the pandemic.
The bill, the Crisis Assistance Helping Out On The Streets (CAHOOTS) Act, grants states further enhanced federal Medicaid funding for three years to provide community-based mobile crisis services to individuals experiencing a mental health or SUD crisis. It also provides $25 million for planning grants to states and evaluations to help establish or build out mobile crisis programs and evaluate them.
Senators Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), and Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) are co-sponsors of the CAHOOTS Act.