Disaster Assistance Bill Recognizes Broader Scope

Legislation extending the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Crisis Counseling Assistance and Training Program (CCP) to regular emergency declarations currently sits before the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. As it now stands, FEMA’s CCP only kicks in for people following a major disaster declaration. “Mental health problems are physical medical conditions with cognitive and emotional symptoms, and proper medical care for these conditions needs to be accessible following all disasters, not just major disasters,” according to Executive Director of the American Mental Wellness Association Sharon Engdahl.

A bipartisan group of four representatives introduced H.R. 5703, and two cross-party senators introduced U.S. S. 3677. The U.S. Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee and the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee passed both bills unanimously. Ideally, the focus will emphasize education, prevention, early detection, and intervention, as well as a physician’s involvement. Emergency declarations for natural disasters, terrorist attacks, and building collapses take both physical and emotional tolls, and can lead to a rise in substance use disorder, suicide, and post-traumatic stress disorder.