Senator Stabenow on Fox News: “We are fully funding mental health and addiction services as health care in the community”

On “Special Report,” Senator Stabenow and Senator Blunt Discuss Working Together to Transform Mental Health Care in the Country

Thursday, October 20, 2022



WASHINGTON—Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) joined Fox News’ Bret Baier for a sit down conversation on her transformational mental health initiative that expanded nationwide this week. Senator Stabenow and Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO) announced that states across the country will now be able to join their successful initiative to fully fund high quality mental health and addiction services through Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics. To learn more about the program, click here.


“There was a 60 percent reduction in people going to jail with a mental illness in the communities that had these comprehensive clinics. There was a 69 percent reduction in people sitting in the emergency room, 41 percent reduction in people being homeless. And that was after only two years,” said Senator Stabenow about the impacts of the clinics.


The video can be found here and a transcript is below.


BRET BAIER: We are thrilled to be in the Senate Agriculture Committee Room with our two guests from both sides of the aisle. Senator Debbie Stabenow, Democrat from Michigan. Senator Roy Blunt, Republican from Missouri.


Thanks for having us up here. You're the Senate Ag Committee chair, so we're happy to be in this room. But today, you're talking about something different and that is success on mental health. Explain that and what happened today.


SEN. DEBBIE STABENOW (D-MI): Well, thanks so much for talking about this. This is so important and Senator Blunt and I have for years led efforts in community health centers, which are a model strongly supported on a bipartisan basis, where you set high quality standards for care, and then you fully fund the clinic.


But we've never done that on mental health or an addiction services. And so, we started looking at, well how can we do that. And we developed what was called the Excellence in Mental Health and Addiction Treatment Act, which sets high quality standards. Fully funding mental health and addiction services as health care in the community.


BAIER: You're announcing that it's expanding, because you're seeing success.


SEN. ROY BLUNT (R-MO): It's expanding. You know, people always feel like we've got to have a mental health system that works better. But we've really never been able to put a model in place that we can prove works.


And we've done that now, you know, as the last bill that President Kennedy signed into law 50 years ago, now 59 years ago, and it was the Community Mental Health Act. And the goal of that Act was to close the big institutional facilities that weren't serving people very well and replace them with community based, high quality mental health facilities.


And the country spent most of the ’70s and even in some into the ’80s closing those facilities, but very few places have offered the alternative. And so, this is really back to what's really been a goal for the federal government for 59 years this month. And we had this news conference this morning talking about how the other 40 states could join the 10 pilot states and have exactly what the government said we were going to do 59 ago. We are connecting the dots.


BAIER: And it's even more important now after the pandemic, the CDC had these stats, August 2020 to February 21, percentage symptoms of adults with symptoms of an anxiety or depressive disorder increasing 36.4 percent to 41.5 percent. And percentage of those reporting unmet mental healthcare needs increased from nine to 11.7. And most of these are in younger people 18 to 29, which, so it seems like it's crucial at this point.


STABENOW: There's no question about it. What we are doing with the comprehensive clinics is that where they are, someone can walk in, just walk in, and begin to get the help that they need for themselves or their child or another member of their family. And they're required to give 24-hour crisis services.


BAIER: So this stems from the bipartisan Safer Communities Act and $8.5 billion to expand this program. A lot of people look at Capitol Hill and say this place is broken. It's so partisan. But here you are, Democrat and Republican, and you have worked together for a number of years.


BLUNT: Actually, the first bill, we were both on the Ag committee when we came to the Congress together --


STABENOW: In the House.


BAIER: In the House.


BLUNT: -- 26 years ago.


BAIER: What was the first bill?


BLUNT: First bill we passed, it was a wheat mold research bill.




BAIER: Prescient.


STABENOW: Very, yes.


BLUNT: But it was for some of our communities, but we did it together. And we have done a number of things together since then. We helped found the federally qualified health centers caucus. So you find these things to work together. I think often they don't get the coverage, obviously, that you can get by being really angry about something as opposed to really getting something done. And this is going to make a big difference in people's lives.


BAIER: When you hear people say Washington doesn't work, do you point to this relationship? You are losing him. He's leaving.


STABENOW: I'm locking the door. He is not leaving.


BAIER: But here is a senator, and there's a few, who work hard to get to yes. It's a lot harder to get to yes than it is to get to no. Are you worried about the Senate composition?


STABENOW: You know, I do worry about that. And we have other colleagues as well that I have.


BAIER: Senator Portman.


STABENOW: I’ve worked with Senator Portman on Great Lakes issues and so many other things. I think what worries me the most is somehow this sense of not trusting our country and the way we solve problems in this country. And we need people in government who believe that and trust that if you reach out in good faith with people, if you keep your word and you work hard, that you can actually solve problems. And that's what we do.


BAIER: Sure, you have differences on some big issues.


BLUNT: With people who have gotten to the United States Senate and have had positions that they've developed over years, it's probably not much trying to talk them out of that. You find the common ground and move forward.


I do think the country is finally wrapping itself around the need to treat mental health like all other health, to get ourselves in a place in society where can talk about a mental health problem somebody in your family has just as comfortably as you talk about a physical health problem.


STABENOW: I remember when you used to whisper somebody has cancer. She has cancer, you know. Now people talk about their cancer, their treatments. They go to treatment. They come back. They continue with their life. We want in the case of a mental illness, a brain disease, or an addiction, to be something you talk about and say, yes, I got some help for that.


BAIER: And you are seeing things work. I think the criticism always about big government is that it throws money at problems and doesn't see actual things work. You're actually seeing things in these states that are making a difference.


STABENOW: In fact, we were blown away. There was a 60 percent reduction in people going to jail with a mental illness in the communities that had these comprehensive clinics. There was a 69 percent reduction in people sitting in the emergency room, 41 percent reduction in people being homeless. And that was after only two years.


BAIER: So as you come to the end of your term up here and your time here, will you look back at these big bipartisan moments as your biggest successes?


BLUNT: For sure. Whether it's the research dollars we've done at NIH, what we've done here, the efforts I've been able to make as a member of the Intel Committee, all would be among the things that we'd look at. The infrastructure bill that Republicans and Democrats voted for this year.


BAIER: So are you worried about the Senate after you leave?


BLUNT: No. No, I think the Senate, I think we're going to move, get beyond this idea where anger is the coin of the realm, and I think this is one example of how much better it is to talk about accomplishment than it is to talk about how terrible the other side is.


BAIER: You're coming up to an election, and both of you are going to fight for your teams.


STABENOW: There's no question, I want to be in the majority, and Roy would like to leave with the Republicans coming back into the majority. But there also ought to be a line, there ought to be lines somewhere.


BAIER: Where that ends, and you start negotiating on something?


STABENOW: Right. And sort of also lines in how people talk about each other and campaign and so on.


BAIER: Last word. November 14th to the end of the year, are you looking for something to get done?


BLUNT: This is one of the things I'd hope I'd get done this year, to have this concept move nationally. We've got a handful of things that we're working on and I think are going to get done. I want to see our efforts at the National Institutes of Health for research continue to follow the pattern we've been on for eight years now, and I hope and believe most of those things can happen.


BAIER: Senator Blunt, Senator Stabenow, we appreciate your time. Thanks for coming on Common Ground.