DETROIT, MI – U.S. Senator Gary Peters (MI) announced he will cosponsor legislation to expand mental health assistance for communities recovering from the psychological effects of natural disasters and other emergencies. The Post-Disaster Mental Health Response Act would expand the eligibility of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Crisis Counseling Assistance and Training Program that provides funding grants to states, including for counseling services, so they can support the mental health of victims and first responders after hurricanes, severe storms, and other emergencies. The legislation would make the Crisis Counseling Assistance and Training Program, which can only be used following major disaster declarations, eligible under emergency declarations as well. The legislation has already advanced the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, where Peters serves as chair.
“Extreme storms, hurricanes, and floods in Michigan and across the nation are becoming more frequent and destructive. These natural disasters, along with other emergencies in recent years, have not only caused serious damage to our communities, but have also traumatized and adversely affected the mental health of countless Americans,” said Senator Peters. “This commonsense, bipartisan legislation would broaden FEMA’s ability to ensure state governments can provide mental health services to survivors and first responders who are struggling to cope with the aftermath of emergencies – no matter what level of disaster declaration they are given by the federal government.”
The Post-Disaster Mental Health Response Act would enable FEMA to utilize the Crisis Counseling Assistance and Training Program under smaller scale disasters, which can still cause a great deal of mental distress to victims and first responders. Under current law, the President can only authorize the use of the Crisis Counseling Assistance and Training Program under a major disaster declaration but not an emergency declaration. The bill would allow the President to authorize the program under both types of disaster declarations. The legislation will allow states to request federal reimbursements for mental health services after emergency declarations.
As Chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Peters has led several efforts to strengthen our federal disaster preparedness and response. Peters secured $500 million in funding as part of the bipartisan infrastructure bill for a program he created to help states establish revolving loan programs for local governments to carry out mitigation projects that reduce the risk of shoreline erosion, extreme flooding, and other natural disasters. Peters also convened a hearing with disaster preparedness and response experts to hear how worsening natural disasters, including flooding, severe storms, and wildfires, continue to threaten lives and livelihoods in Michigan and across the nation. Peters’ bipartisan legislation to protect Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Reservists from losing their full-time employment when they are called up to assist communities with disaster response has advanced in the Senate.