Harder Asks for Federal Help with Local Mental Health Challenges

April 16, 2020
Press Release

Modesto, CA – As mental health challenges increase amid the Coronavirus, Representative Josh Harder (CA-10) has asked the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to provide immediate federal assistance to the Central Valley. Rep. Harder’s office has heard from dozens of constituents and organizations concerned about increasing mental health issues, including suicide. Congress provided an additional $425 million to allow SAMHSA to support local mental health providers, but that funding has not yet reached the Central Valley.

“I’ve heard from a lot of people who are really struggling through this and don’t have their normal support systems in place,” said Rep. Harder. “We need to make sure this funding is coming here to the Central Valley – we’ve already seen the terrible effects of mental health issues here, and we need help.”  

"Now more than ever, we need to stay connected to those who struggle with mental health and substance use issues and providers need funding to create remote work platforms that will allow them to provide consistent, confidential counseling and support to their client,” said Cindy Duenas, Executive Director, Center for Human Services, Modesto. “This is a critical lifeline to those already receiving treatment and others who may need to seek help during this time."

The text of the letter is below and an original copy is available here.


Administrator McCance-Katz,

Thank you for your leadership overseeing the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). I write today to urge SAMHSA to advocate for the mental health needs in my district.

Through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act or CARES Act (PL 116-136), Congress authorized federal funding to meet mental health needs. SAMHSA received $425 million to help people with mental health and substance use disorders – of those funds, $250 million is available to behavioral health clinics – especially since the coronavirus has fundamentally changed the nature of medical treatment.

During a time of mandatory quarantines and the increased levels of anxiety, fear, and isolation, Americans must have clear and unencumbered access to mental health sources. Many communities across the country, including those in my District, are experiencing the somber mental health effects of this pandemic: Central Valley suicide hotlines are surging with reports of attempted suicides; while overall crime is declining, domestic violence is growing due to more time spent with aggressors; social distancing is causing setbacks for some veterans coping with depression or Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD); and seniors who are alone or young students who were on track to graduate and whose dreams have been crushed, this pandemic is igniting fear, anxiety, and depression.

According to the Modesto Bee, mental health experts warn that the stress and anxiety of the pandemic will take a toll on mental health for people of all ages, but seniors and children face high risk. And calling or texting isn’t always enough. Vintrica Grant, a mental health clinician for the Stanislaus County Aging and Veterans Services states, “There are some who are definitely starting to feel that they’re going into that downward spiral of depression because of lack of physical interaction with individuals.” According to Stanislaus County, financial hardship can further exacerbate depression in seniors amid the pandemic. 


When these vulnerable populations no longer have their support networks, counselors, friends, and family, access to behavioral, mental, and substance abuse treatment are so critically important and providing support – including through online models or via telephone counseling – are desperately needed. To protect the physical and mental health of my constituents, I urge SAMHSA to prioritize communities with great mental health needs such as mine and to implement the resources from the CARES Act, so that proper technologies, trainings, and treatments are available for my constituents to stay healthy. 


From my conversations with constituents and health providers, I know that they will be looking for swift action and support for mental health services during this crisis. I look forward to your response and how SAMHSA plans to utilize its new additional funding to bolster the mental and behavioral health of the American people during the coronavirus pandemic.