Skip to Main

Reps. Barragán, Blunt Rochester, Kuster Introduce Bill to Expand Access to Health Centers, Strengthen Primary Care Workforce


May 8, 2023

Contact: Kevin McGuire, 202-538-2386 (mobile)

WASHINGTON, D.C.- Today, Congresswoman Nanette Barragán (CA-44), along with Congresswoman Lisa Blunt-Rochester (DE-AL) and Congresswoman Annie Kuster (NH-02) introduced the Health Center Service Expansion and Provider Storage Reduction Act to increase access to mental and behavioral health services provided through health centers, expand weekend and evening hours, create new service sites, and invest in strengthening the primary care workforce through the National Health Service Corps (NHSC).  The bill helps communities across the country by hiring more primary care workers and supporting the fiscal needs of health centers facing rising costs from the ending of the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency. 

“Community health centers are a lifeline in so many communities across the country. They serve everyone who walks through their doors, regardless of their ability to pay, or insurance or immigration status — and the patient population is only continuing to grow,” said Rep. Barragán. “In LA County alone, nearly 2 million people rely on health centers for their healthcare needs. Health centers are experiencing declining revenue, rising labor costs, and provider shortages at the exact same time they are making significant efforts to address our nation’s mental health crisis. This legislation is a critical step toward addressing the issues and I’m proud to co-lead the Health Center Service Expansion and Provider Shortage Reduction Act with my colleagues Reps. Blunt Rochester and Kuster.” 

“Every day, Delawareans rely on the essential primary care services provided by our incredible community health centers, including our Federally Qualified Health Centers. But it’s become increasingly clear that these centers are in need of additional support to meet evolving patient needs,” said Blunt Rochester, member of the House Health Subcommittee. “That’s why I’m proud to introduce the Health Center Service Expansion and Provider Shortage Reduction Act with Reps. Barragán and Kuster that will require community health centers to one and for all provide mental and behavioral health services and invest in our primary care workforce – helping us maintain public health, strengthen our communities, and support our existing and new primary care providers.”

“Our Community Health Centers play a huge role in our nation’s health care system – when we invest in them, our entire country feels the benefits,” said Rep. Kuster, founder and co-chair of the Bipartisan Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Task Force. “I am proud to introduce this legislation to equip these centers with the tools and funding needed to meet patients where they are through increased mental and behavioral health services, extended hours, and new workforce investments.  Mental health is a critical component of wellness, and it is essential that we treat it that way.”

Community health centers provide care to over 30 million patients across the country.  Since 2020, there has been a dramatic increase in behavioral health conditions such as mental health and substance abuse disorders, and a concurrent rise in community health center visits to address behavioral health issues. However, community health centers are not required to provide mental health and substance abuse disorder care. Currently, it’s estimated that community health centers are only meeting 27% of the estimated demand for mental health services, and six percent of the estimated demand for substance use disorder services, among their patients.  According to the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) estimates, by 2025 there will be a shortage of over 250,000 mental health professionals.  The gap in patient access coupled with the ongoing behavioral health workforce shortage has made it increasingly more difficult for community health centers to sustain their primary care services and community reach.

The Health Center Service Expansion and Provider Shortage Reduction Act would:

  • Require all health centers to provide mental health and substance use disorder services under Section 330 of the Public Health Service Act and provide $700 million annually to implement the requirement.
  • Provide an annual $250 million investment to support increased hours of operations, including extended or weekend hours.  This will increase access for patients who work untraditional hours, unable to take off work, or live in rural or remote areas.
  • Provide $150 million in New Access Point Funding targeted to areas of highest need. The last time HRSA awarded funding for new access points, they were only able to fund 75 out of more than 550 applications.
  • Provide additional funding to enable the NHSC to maintain its current field strength by recruiting primary care, behavioral health, and dental health providers to areas of greatest need.

A one-pager on the bill can be found here.


 Nanette Diaz Barragán is proud to represent California’s 44th Congressional District, which includes the communities of Bellflower, Carson, Harbor City, Harbor Gateway, Lakewood, Long Beach, Lynwood, Paramount, Rancho Dominguez, San Pedro, South Gate, West Carson, and Wilmington. She serves as Chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, and on the House Energy and Commerce Committee and Health, Environment, Manufacturing, and Critical Minerals Subcommittees.