December 14, 2023

Cassidy, Cortez Masto Introduce Legislation to Expand Peer Counseling Services for Seniors

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA) and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) introduced the PEERS in Medicare Act of 2023 to expand access to peer counseling services for seniors. U.S. Representatives Judy Chu (D-CA-28) and Adrian Smith (R-NE-03) introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives.

“Mental health is a critical part of a patient’s wellbeing,” said Dr. Cassidy. “Peer support should be another tool a senior has for mental health support. There is no silver bullet to fix our mental health crisis, but it’s part of a silver buckshot strategy.”

“Peer counseling is a proven, effective service that provides thousands of Nevadans with mental and behavioral health support each year,”said Senator Cortez Masto. “My bipartisan legislation make it easier for Nevada seniors across the state to access these essential programs.”

The PEERS in Medicare Act of 2023 would enhance mental health care available to seniors by requiring Medicare to cover peer support services provided at rural health clinics, federally qualified health centers, community mental health centers, and certified community behavioral health clinics.

“Peer support services are lifesaving person-centered recovery services that have been used for decades to instill hope and assist a person in obtaining life goals and positive outcomes,” said Mary Giliberti, Mental Health America’s Chief Public Policy Officer. “Allowing these services to be offered in community mental health centers and other community settings will be an important step toward advancing behavioral health prevention in the Medicare program by ensuring individuals with mental health and substance use conditions are able to take advantage of opportunities to live a full life and avoid crisis.”

“Peer support specialists are a critical part of the mental health and substance use care workforce. Their ability to provide recovery-oriented, person-centered care – often drawing from lived experience – is vital to ensuring people have crucial access to the full continuum of behavioral health care,” said Chuck Ingoglia, President & CEO, National Council for Mental Wellbeing. “By allowing peer support services to be reimbursed by Medicare in certain settings, this bill will not only expand access to life-saving care for Medicare beneficiaries but also help grow the mental health and substance use care workforce.”

A leader in Congress for strengthening mental health services, Cassidy helped author and pass legislation which made significant resources available to improve mental health care for families and children, including for school-based services. Last year, Congress also passed legislation to reauthorize and strengthen resources Cassidy first secured in his Mental Health Reform Act of 2016, which supports federal mental health and substance use disorder programs.