The COVID-19 pandemic has been one of the most challenging times in our nation’s history. It has affected everyone differently and for some, stress and uncertainty may negatively impact their mental health. This month is National Mental Health Awareness Month and during this pandemic, when everyone is focused on their physical health, please remember taking care of your mental health is equally important.
Throughout my time in Congress, I have been an advocate for ensuring people have access to the mental health care they need. Several mental health priorities I have been fighting for were signed into law with the last COVID-19 response package, the CARES Act. We have made great strides in reforming mental health laws and expanding services over the past few years and these priorities help build on our progress.
One of those priorities is modernizing care coordination for patients who have a substance use disorder. Doctors must have the whole picture on a patient’s medical history in order to safely and effectively treat them. Previously, federal regulations known as 42 CFR Part 2 determined the confidentiality of patient records for substance use disorder treatment programs. Unfortunately, doctors couldn’t see if a patient had been treated for a substance use disorder, mental illness or other chronic diseases, which for some patients had deadly consequences. Now, we broke down those barriers, while still maintaining patient confidentiality, and brought this outdated law into the 21st century.
Another priority is the reauthorization of the Excellence in Mental Health Demonstration Program, which funds Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics (CCBHCs). CCBHCs have dramatically improved access to community-based mental health care. For example, Grand Lake Mental Health Center has electronic tablets in Grove Police Department patrol cars that can provide a direct, face-to-face link between a professional and a person in crisis. After an evaluation via tablet, police can divert the patient to a crisis center instead of an emergency room or jail. I am glad to see this program reauthorized and expanded so this vitally important work being done in our communities can continue.
During this pandemic and National Mental Health Awareness Month, I encourage you to take some time for your mental health. Go for a walk outside, connect with family and friends or take a step back from COVID-19 related content. If you are feeling overwhelmed, reach out for help. We will get through this crisis together.
Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.) represents the second district in the U.S. House of Representatives. He can be reached through http://mullin.house.gov, and at 811-A N York St., Muskogee, OK 74403, 918-687-2533 or 202-225-2701.