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Senators Urge DOD to Enhance Mental Health Care Resources for Servicemembers & Families Amid Pandemic

“The COVID-19 impact on mental health will be long-term, and immediate action as well as a long-term response plan are necessary to combat the mental health implications of this crisis.”

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) led a group of 18 Senators, including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), in a letter to the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD), urging the agency to put in place a comprehensive mental health care plan to ensure the well-being of servicemembers and their families during and after the pandemic.

“We urge you to develop a plan to protect and promote mental health and wellbeing, assess and reform current policies, and conduct outreach to the military community to identify resources and TRICARE-covered services that are available to them during this stressful time,” the Senators wrote in a letter to DOD Secretary Mark Esper.

Noting that social isolation and travel restrictions - compounded with often serving on the frontlines of fighting this outbreak - have created acute hardships for servicemembers and their families, the Senators stressed the need for a “coordinated, comprehensive plan to ensure access to high-quality mental health care and continuity of care.”

In developing and implementing this plan, they urged the DOD to address existing mental health treatment stigma, provide guidance on mental health ramifications stemming from this crisis, and provide additional training and support for mental health professionals. The Senators emphasized the need for an assessment of TRICARE telehealth policies and subsequent improvements to ensure that the needs of servicemembers and their families are met, and that services are on par with or better than civilian health care.

The letter was also signed by U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Bob Casey (D-PA), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Tina Smith (D-MN), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Doug Jones (D-AL), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Dick Durbin (D-IL), and Mazie Hirono (D-HI).

The full text of the letter is available here.