Gardner, Harris Address Rising Suicide Rates

This legislation is part of Senator Gardner’s ongoing initiative to address rising suicide rates in Colorado

Washington, D.C. – Senators Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Kamala Harris (D-CA) introduced the bipartisan Mental Health Professionals Workforce Shortage Loan Repayment Act this week to improve mental health access in underserved areas. This legislation is part of Senator Gardner’s ongoing initiative to address rising suicide rates in Colorado and across the United States. Identical bipartisan legislation was introduced in the House of Representatives by Representatives John Katko (NY-24) and Grace Napolitano (CA-32), co-chairs of the bipartisan Congressional Mental Health Caucus.


“Colorado has the unfortunate distinction of having one of the highest suicide rates in the country,” said Senator Gardner. “Part of the problem is too many Coloradans don’t have access to quality mental health services. It’s a concern I hear frequently from families and health care providers in these underserved areas. Approximately 70 percent of Colorado’s mental health need is unmet, and we have to do something about it. This bill will help support mental health professionals and connect the people who need it the most with potentially life-saving mental health care.”


Mental health care providers and organizations stated their support immediately after introduction:


“Having just recently announced a $100 million commitment to address behavioral health needs in Colorado, UCHealth, with our 12 member hospitals, is pleased to support the “Mental Health Professionals Workforce Shortage Loan Repayment Act”, being sponsored by Senators Kamala Harris and Cory Gardner. Like many other institutions, UCHealth is experiencing difficulties in hiring adequate numbers of behavioral health professionals to meet this growing need for care in the communities we serve. We see this Act as taking a huge step forward to address the need for additional mental health professionals. We compliment Senator Gardner, Senator Harris and others for moving this initiative forward,” said Elizabeth Concordia, President & CEO of UCHealth.


“The Eastern Plains Healthcare Consortium is honored to support S. 2500, the Mental Health Professionals Workforce Shortage Loan Repayment Act of 2019.  As a network of critical access hospitals in rural and frontier areas of Colorado, we regularly live the impact of the lack of behavioral health providers.  Devastatingly, our community members have long been left with limited, if any, resources to support crisis, preventive, and ongoing help for their mental health.  We’re hopeful and thrilled to have a new opportunity to provide our residents with the care they need and deserve,” said Melissa Bosworth, Executive Director for the Eastern Plains Healthcare Consortium.


“The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention thanks Senator Harris and Senator Gardner for championing suicide prevention and access to mental health services,” said John H. Madigan Jr., Senior Vice President and Chief Public Policy Officer for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. “This legislation will address two key challenges – the shortage of trained mental health professionals and the cost of getting mental health education and training. One of the best ways to prevent suicide is to make mental health services accessible to all who need them wherever they live or work. An expanded mental health treatment workforce will go a long way in dealing effectively with the current suicide crisis in our country.”


“The American Psychological Association commends Senator Harris and Senator Gardner for introducing this critically needed legislation to help expand access to mental health services for the 115.4 million Americans living in geographical areas without adequate access to mental health care. Additional federal support for behavioral health workforce training programs is needed to meet the growing demand for psychologists in the United States, which is expected to increase significantly by 2030. This legislation represents a significant step by providing incentives for highly qualified behavioral health providers to work in communities where services are most needed," said Arthur C. Evans Jr., PhD, CEO of the American Psychological Association.


“The American Association of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) sincerely thanks Senator Harris and Senator Gardner on their reintroduction of the ‘Mental Health Professionals Workforce Shortage Loan Relief Act of 2019.’ This important bill is a much-needed, creative approach to begin addressing the severe workforce shortage of child and adolescent psychiatrists, and other mental health professionals, through student loan relief," said Karen Dineen Wagner, MD, PhD, President of the American Association of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.


Background on the Mental Health Professionals Workforce Shortage Loan Repayment Act:


  • Authorizes a new loan repayment program for mental health professionals who agree to practice in an area with a shortage of mental health professionals.
  • Would repay one-sixth of a professional’s educational debt for each year of service, up to $250,000 over six years.


Gardner and Harris’ legislation is supported by 56 health and mental health groups:

UCHealth, Eastern Plains Healthcare Consortium, 2020 Moms, American Art Therapy Association, American Association for Geriatric Psychiatry, American Association of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, American Association for Psychoanalysis in Clinical Social Work, American Counseling Association, American Dance Therapy Association, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, American Group Psychotherapy Association, American Occupational Therapy Association, American Psychiatric Association, American Psychological Association, American Psychoanalytic Association, Anxiety and Depression Association of America, Association for Ambulatory Behavioral Healthcare, Association for Behavioral Health and Wellness, Bazelon, Centerstone, Council on Social Work Education, Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, Clinical Social Work Association, College of Psychiatric and Neurologic Pharmacists, Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, Education Development Center, Global Alliance for Behavioral Health and Social Justice, International OCD Foundation, The Jewish Federations of North America, The Kennedy Forum, Mental Health America, NAADAC, the Association for Addiction Professionals, National Alliance to Advance Adolescent Health, National Alliance on Mental Illness, National Association for Behavioral Healthcare, National Association for Children’s Behavioral Health, National Association of County Behavioral Health and Developmental Disability Directors, National Association for Rural Mental Health, National Association of School Psychologists, National Association of Social Workers, National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors, National Board of Certified Counselors, National Council for Behavioral Health, National Disability Rights Network, National Eating Disorders Association, National Federation of Families for Children’s Mental Health, National League for Nursing, National Register of Health Service Psychologists, NHMH-No Health without Mental Health, Psychotherapy Action Network, Postpartum Support International, Schizophrenia and Related Disorders Alliance of America, School-Based Health Alliance, School Social Work Association of America, and Trust for America’s Health.




Cory Gardner is a member of the U.S. Senate serving Colorado. He sits on the Energy & Natural Resources Committee, the Foreign Relations Committee, the Commerce, Science, & Transportation Committee, and is the Chairman of the Subcommittee on East Asia, the Pacific, and International Cybersecurity Policy.