U.S. SENATE — U.S. Senator Steve Daines, Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Finance Subcommittee on Health Care, cosponsored a bipartisan bill, the “PEERS Act,” to expand access to peer support services for Montanans with mental health and substance use conditions.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has put a great strain on an already stretched thin mental health system, especially when it comes to the mental and behavioral health care workforce. Allowing Medicare to cover peer support services would expand critical access to care for individuals in Montana with mental illness or substance use conditions. It would also help build upon the successful peer support network in Montana, which helps deliver recovery-oriented behavioral health services across the state,” Daines said.
Peer support includes a range of activities and interactions between people with lived experience of a mental illness or substance use disorder. Peer support specialists have completed specialized training and are certified to assist individuals in achieving their recovery goals. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), peer recovery support has resulted in reduced hospital admission rates, increased quality of life and community engagement, and decreased costs to the mental health system.
Mental health leaders shared support for the bill:
“As the leading mental health advocacy organization in our great state, Mental Health America (MHA) of Montana is very excited that Senator Daines decided to stand up for Montanans with lived experience and co-sponsor S.2144, the Promoting Effective and Empowering Recovery Services (PEERS) Act,” said Mental Health America of Montana. “As data from MHA’s screening program and SAMHSA’s 2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health indicate, more individuals and families than ever before are dealing with undiagnosed and untreated mental health and substance use disorders, and this is exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Congress must rise to the challenge to eliminate barriers to needed services and supports, and can do so by passing this bipartisan, bicameral bill. Having Senator Daines’ support of this legislation brings us one step closer to getting people the help they need in Medicare and to appropriately recognize and value peer support specialists in helping Montanans achieve recovery.”
“Montana’s Peer Network fully supports the PEERS Act of 2021 co-sponsored by Senator Steve Daines. The Act is a major step forward in providing recovery resources and accessibility to peer support services to individuals in Montana and across the nation with mental health and substance use conditions. Thank you, Senator Daines, for supporting the importance of recovery,” said Jim Hajny, Executive Director of Montana’s Peer Network.
More background on Daines’ work this Congress:
In September, in light of a new study released by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) showing that methamphetamine-involved overdose deaths have nearly tripled in the U.S. between 2015 and 2019, Daines renewed his calls for the development of treatment options for methamphetamine use disorder.
In June 2021, Daines introduced the “Excellence in Mental Health and Addiction Treatment Act,” a bipartisan bill to enhance access to addiction and mental health services in communities across Montana. Specifically, it would expand access to Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics, which provide 24/7/365 crisis services, outpatient mental health and substance abuse treatment services, and care coordination with emergency rooms, law enforcement, and veteran groups.
On May 19, 2021, Daines introduced a bipartisan bill, the “Telehealth Expansion Act of 2021,” to remove barriers to telehealth and permanently expand access to virtual care, including mental health services. Daines believes expanding access to telehealth can help increase access to care for patients seeking behavioral health treatment.
On May 12, 2021, as Ranking Member of the Senate Finance Health Subcommittee, Daines led a hearing on improving mental health and addiction services in our communities, especially as the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated issues such as methamphetamine use disorder in Montana.
In February 2021, Daines sent a letter to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) in support of efforts to research and develop effective medication treatment options for those struggling with addiction to methamphetamine and other stimulants.