The bill would put in place standards for about 2,000 “federally qualified” community behavioral health centers, requiring them to provide such services as substance abuse treatment and 24-hour crisis care.
In return, facilities meeting criteria would be able to bill Medicaid for their services — a change intended to open the door to treatment for many more people and one that is estimated to cost about $1 billion over the next decade.
“There is an important gap here,” said Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), one of the bill’s main sponsors. She warned that too many people receive inadequate or no treatment and are at risk of their problems becoming more dangerous.
Sen. Roy Blunt (Mo.), the lead GOP sponsor of the measure, cited his state’s work in providing community health centers but also said that the recent shootings in Newtown, Conn., spotlighted shortcomings in mental health care that demand attention.
“We have a moment that works, and we have a model that works,” he said.
Additional Republican co-sponsors include Sens. Marco Rubio (Fla.) and Susan Collins (Maine). Other Democrats backing the legislation include Sens. Jack Reed (R.I.), Patrick J. Leahy (Vt.) and Barbara Boxer (Calif.).
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