AAMC Statement on Senate Finance Committee’s “Enhancing the Mental Health Workforce” Discussion Draft

AAMC (Association of American Medical Colleges) Acting Chief Public Policy Officer Tannaz Rasouli, MPH, issued the following statement about the Senate Finance Committee’s “Enhancing the Mental Health Workforce” discussion draft to address mental and behavioral health needs:

“The AAMC commends Senate Finance Committee Chair Wyden (D-Ore.), Ranking Member Crapo (R-Idaho), Senators Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Daines (R-Mont.), and the committee for their bipartisan work to propose solutions to the country’s growing mental and behavioral health crisis and to promote the well-being of patients, families, and communities.

We support the discussion draft released today for helping to improve patient access to much-neededed mental and behavioral health providers by investing in new Medicare-supported graduate medical education (GME) positions. We applaud the working group for taking this step to address this critical need for patients.

The AAMC’s most recent analysis estimates that the US could see a shortage of up to 124,000 physicians by 2034, and the Health Resources and Services Administration estimates 7,632 mental health providers are necessary to eliminate current mental health professional shortage areas. In addition to the deficit of psychiatrists, shortages of other physicians and health professionals pose challenges for patients seeking mental and behavioral health services. These shortages are the reason we strongly support legislation such as this Opioid Workforce Act (S. 1438), the Substance Use Disorder Workforce Act (HR 3441)and the Resident Physician Shortage Reduction Act (S. 834/HR 2256), which would provide support to help expand accredited residency programs in needed areas.

We also greatly appreciate the inclusion of other innovative policies that would help expand access to behavioral health services for Medicaid beneficiaries and address the regulatory barriers that prevent some physicians and other staff from accessing wellness programs and resources offered by hospitals.

We commend the working group for taking a bipartisan approach to improve access to mental and behavioral health care for all people, and as the process progresses, we look forward to continuing to work with the Committee to build a robust health care workforce.”

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