Press Release

October 2, 2015
Senate Unanimously Approves Cardin Legislation Streamlining Access to Emergency Mental Health Services

BALTIMORE – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), a member of the Senate Finance Subcommittee on Health Care, lauded Senate passage of legislation he authored to extend the duration of a demonstration program that allows individuals with severe mental illnesses to receive the help they need instead of becoming stuck in the revolving door of emergency room visits, relapses, jail, homelessness, and death. The Improving Access to Emergency Psychiatric Care Act of 2015 (S.599) extends the current three-year Medicaid Emergency Psychiatric Demonstration, which provides timely, cost-effective and life-saving care to individuals who are experiencing an emergency psychiatric crisis. 


“Too often Americans with emergency mental health needs are unable to receive the care they need due to bureaucratic red tape,” said Senator Cardin, a member of the Senate Finance Subcommittee on Health Care. “This bipartisan legislation cuts through the red tape to make sure those in crisis have access to the specialized care they need to recover and lead healthy, productive lives. By working with the states, the federal government can be a partner in saving lives as well as vital resources. I thank my colleagues for extending the life of this critically important program.”


In 2010, Congress authorized this demonstration project to alleviate the shortage of psychiatric beds by allowing federal Medicaid matching payments to freestanding psychiatric hospitals for emergency psychiatric cases, waiving the longstanding Institution for Mental Disease (IMD) exclusion for Medicaid beneficiaries between the ages of 21 and 64 years.  In Maryland and 10 other participating states, as well as the District of Columbia, this demonstration project is allowing Medicaid beneficiaries with severe mental illness to receive emergency inpatient treatment in community-based psychiatric hospitals.


Despite very promising preliminary results, the demonstration is set to end on December 31, 2015. The legislation builds on the early success of this demonstration by extending the program through September 30, 2016, when the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) would be required to submit a report to Congress with her recommendations based on the final evaluation.  After the report is submitted to Congress, the Act would also allow the Secretary of HHS to extend the program for additional three years and/or expand it to include other states. At the completion of those three additional years, the project would come to a close unless Congress acts to extend it. All the while, the demonstration would be required to remain budget neutral. The legislation was cosponsored by Senators Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine).