March 03, 2021

Cárdenas, Tonko Reintroduce Virtual Community Support Act

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Representatives Tony Cárdenas (CA-29) and Paul Tonko (NY-20) 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. This bill was included in the “Cárdenas HEART (Health Equity Access, Resources, and Treatment) Package” – a health equity legislative package that was released last month.

“This pandemic has put a magnifying glass on the problems in our healthcare system,” said Congressman Cardenas. “Many Americans and families have relied on virtual care during this time, which has been critical.  However, we must ensure that virtual care includes resources for mental, emotional, and physical care are accessible to everyone. We cannot ignore the real mental and emotional toll this pandemic has taken on Americans. We know that peer support can have significant benefits for individuals, including giving people a community they can depend on, improving quality of life, and putting money back in Americans’ pockets by decreasing hospitalization. Addressing the major flaws in our healthcare systems means using a whole-of-care approach to ensure that Americans have the support they need. I am proud to introduce this bill with my colleague Paul Tonko to ensure patients can stay connected with their support communities.” 

“Every one of us has felt the burden of this crisis, a struggle that has been greatly magnified for individuals with mental health and substance use disorders.” Congressman Tonko said. “Our federal response must meet the needs of Americans and deliver behavioral health services to support them during this challenging time. I am proud to partner with Congressman Cárdenas to introduce this timely legislation that provides hope, support and a path forward for those who need it most.”

Endorsements: Anxiety and Depression Association of America, American Association on Health and Disability, American Mental Health Counselors Association, Addiction Professionals of North Carolina, CADA of Northwest Louisiana, California Consortium of Addiction Programs & Professionals, Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), Clinical Social Work Association, Confederation of Independent Psychoanalytic Societies (CIPS), Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, Faces & Voices of Recovery, Global Alliance for Behavioral Health and Social Justice, International Certification & Reciprocity Consortium (IC&RC), Lakeshore Foundation, Legal Action Center, Maternal Mental Health Leadership Alliance, Mission Community Hospital, NAADAC, the Association for Addiction Professionals, National Association for Children’s Behavioral Health, National Center of Excellence for Eating Disorders, National Register of Health Service Psychologists, San Fernando Community Health Center, StopStigmaNow, The Kennedy Forum, Well Being Trust.

Last week, Cárdenas introduced the Strengthening Mental Health Supports for BIPOC Communities Act, legislation that aims to remove systemic barriers to mental health  services that Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) communities have historically faced. This bill amends the Public Health Service Act to make critical advancements in health equity for BIPOC communities by improving access to mental health services under the Community Mental Health Services Block Grant program.

In February, Cárdenas also introduced the Behavioral Health Coordination and Communication Act of 2021, legislation to address the need for coordinated, evidence-based behavioral health care programs at the federal level.

Congressman Cárdenas sits on the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Health Subcommittee.