Lee Joins Chavez-DeRemer in Introducing Bipartisan Homelessness Bill Expanding Mental Health, Substance Abuse Care

For Immediate Release

September 13, 2023

Contact: Emilia.Rowland@mail.house.gov

Lee Joins Chavez-DeRemer in Introducing Bipartisan Homelessness Bill Expanding Mental Health, Substance Abuse Care

DIRECT Care for the Homeless Act creates pilot program to expand street medicine services

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Yesterday, Congresswoman Summer Lee (D-PA-12) joined Congresswoman  Lori Chavez-DeRemer (R-OR-05) introduced the bipartisan DIRECT Care for the Homeless Act. The new proposal, which comes as homelessness continues to rise across the United States at a record-setting rate, requires the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to create a pilot program that would help provide health care services directly to homeless individuals across the U.S.

Congresswoman Lee said, “In the country with the most billionaires on earth, every person deserves access to safe and stable housing. Yet, at a time when housing costs are soaring in Western PA and across the country, almost all of us are just one crisis away from falling into the vicious cycle of homelessness, mental illness, substance use, and poverty–without access to health care treatment we need to break this cycle. Just like housing is a determinant of health, access to healthcare – especially mental health care – is a determinant of housing. I’m proud to join Congresswoman Chavez-DeRemer to introduce the DIRECT Care for the Homeless Act, bipartisan legislation that will take us one step closer to housing justice and health care justice by providing unhoused individuals the direct care they need to transition into safe and stable housing.”

“To tackle the homelessness crisis, I believe we need to take a different approach that breaks up the never-ending cycle of substance abuse, mental illness, and poverty. Unfortunately, we have failed to provide homeless individuals with the accessible and affordable health care treatment they need, with Oregon ranking last in addiction treatment accessibility. The bipartisan Direct Care for the Homeless Act would take overdue action to provide care directly to the homeless, ultimately helping them transition into safe and stable housing. This crisis is impacting communities across Oregon and around the country. I’d like to thank Congresswoman Lee for joining this bipartisan, nationwide effort to address the homelessness crisis,” Chavez-DeRemer said.

Federal data shows Oregon’s homeless population is growing at one of the fastest rates in the nation, jumping 23 percent from 2020 to 2022. Last year, at least 18,000 people were homeless in Oregon on a single night – and advocates argue this number likely underestimates the true total. Many of these individuals face substance abuse and mental health disorders that go untreated in part due to a lack of accessible, affordable health care options.

Street medicine providers fill this gap in care by going directly to patients – providing care on the streets, in encampments, and any place homeless individuals live. Streamlining access to dual-diagnosis care, or care for both substance abuse and mental health disorders, will help homeless individuals take the first step to transitioning off the streets and into safe and stable housing.

To that end, the bipartisan DIRECT Care for the Homeless Act:

  1. Creates a four-year pilot program within HHS, which expands street medicine access for the unsheltered homeless individuals;
  2. Applies to cities or counties that have 150 unsheltered homeless individuals per 100,000 residents, as determined by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD);
  3. Prohibits providers within the program from being reimbursed for supervising the consumption of Schedule I drugs, including fentanyl, cocaine, and methamphetamine;
  4. Incentivizes workers to join the field by expanding Public Service Loan Forgiveness eligibility to community service officers and making medical students pursuing street medicine eligible for a pause on their student loan payments without accruing interest;
  5. Requires the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to publish a study analyzing the effectiveness of the program; and
  6. Includes provisions to improve safety and expand resources available at homeless shelters.

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