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Senator Tina Smith introduces bills focused on expanding mental health services

Updated: June 24, 2020 06:27 PM

Sen. Tina Smith introduced two bipartisan bills Wednesday that will help Minnesotans struggling with mental health and substance abuse disorders.

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The COVID-19 Behavioral Health Support Act would authorize $150 million in grants to States, Tribes, Tribal organizations and community-based organizations for training, technology upgrades, surge capacity needs, emergency crisis intervention, suicide prevention, and outreach to underserved communities.

The Emergency Support for Substance Use Disorders Act would help address substance use disorders through harm reduction services. Grants would prioritize resources for areas with higher drug overdose death rates, telemedicine and workforce needs, prevention and recovery supports, and efforts to reduce stigma.

Smith said the goal is to expand mental health services to Minnesota families. Smith said there is a huge need especially during this health pandemic. The bills would provide federal resources and dollars to make sure that these services are available to as many people as possible.

"The need for mental health services was already really great before COVID-19 and now with the additional stresses that people are feeling, it's even more important," said Smith.

The bills would also help expand telehealth services for mental health. Smith said these pieces of legislation have already passed the U.S. House of Representatives and is hopeful they'll get signed into law.

"A lot of people are isolated, they're staying home. A lot of our elders are not able to get out and be connected with their community the way they normally would be. A lot of our young people who would normally be getting good access to mental health care services in their schools aren't in school so the need is really great," said Smith.

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