Gardner, Manchin Introduce Bill to Help Americans with Crisis Care Services During COVID-19 Pandemic, Opioid Epidemic

Washington, DC – U.S. Senators Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) introduced the Crisis Care Improvement and Suicide Prevention Act, which would direct states to utilize five percent of their Mental Health Block Grant for crisis care services – once funding for the program is increased by five percent nationally – allowing states to upgrade crisis care programs and strategies. U.S. Representative Cheri Bustos (D-IL) introduced companion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives last month.

“I’ve held countless meetings and roundtables with families, students, mental health care professionals, law enforcement officials, and others to address our state’s mental health needs. Colorado had tragically high suicide and drug overdose death rates prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, and as a result of the ongoing Public Health Emergency, our state’s behavioral health needs have only increased,” said Senator Gardner. “Crisis care services and strategies help ensure that individuals get effective care in a timely manner and play a critical role in preventing these devastating outcomes. I am proud to join Senator Manchin to introduce this bipartisan legislation that will support crisis care services and save lives.”

“We are experiencing an epidemic in the middle of a pandemic, and our fellow Americans need help. In 2019 alone, 70,980 Americans died from drug overdoses which is heartbreaking and unacceptable, and the COVID-19 pandemic is only making this crisis worse,” said Senator Manchin. “A recent report projects that 75,000 Americans are at risk of overdose death or suicide due to COVID-19 pressures, with West Virginia at the top for potential per capita rates of deaths. As we respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, we must remember the other health crisis affecting our nation. Today, Senator Gardner and I introduced the bipartisan, bicameral Crisis Care Improvement and Suicide Prevention Act to address this crisis by providing increased funding for crisis care services including call centers, mobile services, and stabilization programs. I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle and both chambers to include this legislation in future COVID-19 response efforts to help our fellow Americans during their time of need.”

In a recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll, 45% of adults in the United States reported that their mental health has been negatively impacted due to worry and stress over the virus, 28% of people experiencing significant disruption in their lives due to coronavirus reported major negative mental health impacts, compared to 15% of those experiencing just some disruption and 10% of those with little or no disruption.

“Too many individuals who experience a severe mental health crisis find themselves either in costly emergency rooms waiting hours or days for appropriate care, or in jail,” said American Psychiatric Association (APA) CEO and Medical Director Saul Levin, M.D., M.P.A. “The Manchin-Gardner proposal will help our states and local communities create evidence-based interventions so those experiencing a mental health or substance use-related crisis can quickly receive needed care and avoid unnecessary encounters with the criminal justice system.”

“A mental health crisis can strike anyone without warning, whether related to a severe mental illness, social or family conflict, or other life crisis. This proposal will help ensure that, when such a crisis occurs, Coloradans have prompt access to a comprehensive, community-based, 24/7 crisis services system that provides access to qualified mental health professionals and services when and where they are needed--including in Colorado's rural, urban and frontier communities--to prevent worsening outcomes like suicide attempts,” said Claire Zilber, MD, President of the Colorado Psychiatric Society.

“Crisis programs have become a safety net behavioral health service in many states, and often without adequate funding. This legislation will help crisis systems have an effective response of triage, stabilization, and follow-up to all who face a behavioral health crisis. This will help deter unnecessary emergency room visits and help save lives,” said Bev Marquez, CEO of Rocky Mountain Crisis Partners.


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.