Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) cosponsored the Mental Health Access Improvement Act, legislation introduced by Senators John Barrasso (R-WY) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI). The bipartisan bill would provide America’s seniors with access to marriage and family therapists (MFTs) and licensed mental health counselors (LMHCs) through Medicare. By providing these mental health professionals the opportunity to participate in the Medicare program, this bill expands the number of mental health providers available to our nation’s seniors.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a severe toll on Americans’ mental health due to prolonged social isolation, particularly in rural areas, and has also caused strain on relationships at home,” said Senator Collins. “In order to help protect seniors’ mental health, it is important to provide them with the professional counseling and other support services that they need. This bipartisan legislation would expand Medicare beneficiaries’ access to mental health care professionals, helping to ensure that more seniors can receive this vital care.”
In the United States alone, 20 percent of individuals age 55 and older experience some type of mental health concern. According to the Health Resources and Services Administration, there are more than 5,000 Mental Health Professionals Shortage Areas in the United States, and half of all counties in the U.S. have no practicing psychiatrists or psychologists. Seniors in rural communities are the most adversely affected by these shortage areas.
Senator Collins chaired Congress’ first oversight hearing on COVID-19’s devastating impact on seniors, particularly those that reside in long-term care facilities such as nursing homes. In addition, she chaired a hearing on combatting social isolation and loneliness among seniors during the pandemic.