July 24, 2020


Washington, D.C. – Congressman Joe Kennedy III and Congressman Tony Cárdenas today introduced the Virtual Community Support Act to strengthen community-based and peer support services virtually both during and after the pandemic. Specifically, it would create a new program at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to provide training and development to increase the workforce, enable providers and peers to move their services virtually, and help identify and coordinate care for those who need access to multiple services. Yesterday, Kennedy and Cárdenas introduced the Crisis Counseling Act to expand access to behavioral health care during crises.

“Throughout this pandemic, our nation’s lack of access to behavioral health care has had devastating consequences. But it has also elevated the potential of a modern approach to treatment through community-based and peer support virtual services,” said Congressman Kennedy. “Under the Virtual Community Support Act, we can connect patients with care as we continue to confront this pandemic and after we overcome it.”

“As we adapt to this new world of virtual learning and working, we must also ensure that our health services are virtually accessible – including mental and emotional support services,” said Congressman Cárdenas. “We cannot ignore the real mental and emotional toll this pandemic has taken on Americans. This bill supports critical behavioral health and peer services so that patients get the care they need.”

The Virtual Community Support Act earned the support of the following organizations: American Association of Suicidology, American Association on Health and Disability, American Mental Health Counselors Association, American Psychological Association, Anxiety and Depression Association of America, Connecticut Certification Board, Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, Faces and Voices of Recovery, International Certification and Reciprocity Consortium (IC&RC), The Kennedy Forum, Lakeshore Foundation, Maternal Mental Health Leadership Alliance, National Association of County Behavioral Health & Developmental Disability Directors, National Association for Rural Mental Health, National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors, Stop Stigma Now, and Well Being Trust.

“The need for peer-to-peer support has grown exponentially during the COVID pandemic, as evidenced by a 166% increase in registrations for our online support groups since last March," said Michael Pollock, CEO, Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance. “We are grateful for Rep. Kennedy and Rep. Cárdenas’s demonstrated leadership and commitment to improving the lives of people experiencing mental health conditions though legislation to fund peer support.”

This week, Cárdenas and Kennedy introduced the Crisis Counseling Act, which would automatically approve requests by any state, territory, and tribe for a Crisis Counseling and Training Program (CCP) after it had been granted a Stafford Act declaration. The legislation would remove bureaucratic hurdles that delayed critical support for communities as the COVID-19 pandemic spread across the United States.