Policy Brief: Post-Disaster Mental Health Response Act

By Jen Curt, CTIPP's Director of Government Affairs


Post-Disaster Mental Health Response Act

H.R. 5703/S. 37677 (117th Congress)


To amend the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act to authorize the President to provide professional counseling services to victims of emergencies declared under such Act, and for other purposes.


Sponsored by Senators Richard Durbin (D-IL) and Rob Portman (R-OH), Representatives Ayanna Pressley (MA-07), Dina Titus (NV-01), David McKinley (WV-01), and Peter Meijer (MI-03)

Summary: In the last decade alone, there have been more than 4,000 Emergency Declarations in 37 states and 72 percent of all Congressional districts. From hurricanes and earthquakes to terrorist attacks and other incidences of mass violence, these emergencies have resulted in trauma for individuals, families, and communities, and significant cost burdens on states and governments tasked with rebuilding from these crises.


The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) already provides technical assistance and reimbursement to states, tribes, and territories to address the mental health impacts in the aftermath of tragedies through its Crisis Counseling Assistance and Training Program (CCP). The CCP provides the guidance, tools, best practices, and funding states, tribes, and territories need to help people recover from the mental health impacts of disasters. The CCP uses evidence-based, short-term counseling interventions, including establishing emergency phone lines, promoting the use or development of coping strategies, and connecting survivors with long-term care.


The Problem: CCP is only available to state and local governments that have received only a Major Disaster Declaration. It is not available for smaller-scale disasters that receive Emergency Declarations.


The Solution: The Post-Disaster Mental Health Response Act would simply amend FEMA’s existing Crisis Counseling Assistance and Training Program so that it applies to Emergency Declarations. This legislation will ensure that disasters that don’t meet the physical or monetary requirements for a Major Disaster can still receive mental health support for impacted communities.