Tester Pushing Major Mental Health Care Legislation

Bipartisan Bill Will Increase Montanans Access to Mental Health Care Treatment, Boost Mental Health Research, and Help Communities Respond to Opioid Epidemic

(U.S. Senate)-Senator Jon Tester is cosponsoring bipartisan legislation to address the growing mental health care epidemic in Montana and across the nation.

The Mental Health Reform Act will establish new mental health care initiatives, strengthen existing mental health services, and increase Montanans access to mental health care treatment. Approximately 1 in 5 adults in the United States experience mental health disorders each year, which costs families $193 billion in lost earnings annually.

“I believe the lack of mental health services is one of the biggest threats that folks face across the nation,” Tester said. “This bipartisan bill will better connect folks with the mental health care treatment that they need, and bring more awareness to the challenges folks face while dealing with mental illness.”

“We are deeply thankful for Senator Tester’s co-sponsorship of this critical legislation to improve the nation’s mental illness treatment system,” said Matt Kuntz, Executive Director of NAMI Montana. “The Mental Health Reform Act will improve the country’s ability to address mental health issues that are critical to Montana, such as suicide prevention, effective early intervention programs and crisis services.”

Tester’s Mental Health Reform Act will:

  • Direct the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to develop a strategic plan to address mental health issues and coordinate services across all federal agencies.
  • Make permanent the position of Chief Medical Officer at SAMHSA.
  • Require SAMHSA to publish information on evidence-based programs and practices that have proven effective in treating mental health issues and substance abuse.
  • Cut red tape for states to submit applications for mental health and substance abuse block grants.
  • Establish a 5 percent set-aside fund for early intervention services for individuals with severe mental illness.
  • Create a new grant to help states and communities respond to drug epidemics like the opioid crisis.
  • Require the National Suicide Prevention Hotline to be available 24 hours a day and seven days a week.
  • Create a new grant to train communities how to respond when someone is experiencing a mental health crisis.


The Mental Health Reform Act also includes Tester’s Bringing Postpartum Depression Out of the Shadows Act that will expand screening and referral services for new mothers and his Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act that will reauthorize suicide prevention strategies and provide mental health awareness training grants to first responders and school personnel.

Last month, Tester sent a letter to Defense Secretary Ash Carter to address the growing rate of suicide by National Guardsmen and Reservists.

Tester is additionally sponsoring the Veterans First Act that will bolster the VA’s efforts to recruit more licensed mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists and he is pushing the Senior Mental Health Access Improvement Act to allow Medicare to cover mental health care services provided by marriage and family therapists and licensed professional counselors.