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Kaine Cosponsors Legislation to Address Homelessness, Mental Health, Substance Use Crises

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA), a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee and former fair housing attorney, announced his cosponsorship of the Housing Alignment and Coordination of Critical and Effective Supportive Health Services (ACCESS) Act. The legislation would address the intersecting crises of homelessness, mental health, and substance use disorder by requiring the Secretaries of Health and Human Services (HHS), Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and Treasury Department to issue joint guidance to state Medicaid agencies on how to connect Medicaid beneficiaries with housing-related services.

“As a former fair housing attorney, I strongly believe that every Virginian deserves a safe, reliable roof overhead,” said Kaine. “I’m glad to cosponsor this legislation to make it easier for those Virginians to get connected with crucial housing services through the Commonwealth’s Medicaid agency. I will continue to do all that I can to increase access to mental health, substance use, and housing support.”

In addition to making it easier for Medicaid beneficiaries to receive housing services, the bill would also require HHS to conduct a study on the national cost of housing-related services and supports.

Nationwide, Americans experiencing homelessness hit a record high in 2023 with over 650,000 Americans experiencing homelessness on a single night. Nearly 1,000 more Virginians experienced homelessness during the annual count of those experiencing homelessness compared to before the COVID-19 pandemic. These numbers are even higher among people of color, who are disproportionately affected by homelessness. Studies show that behavioral and mental health challenges are a frequent cause and consequence of housing insecurity. By addressing mental illness and homelessness together, the Housing ACCESS Act will ensure more people can access wraparound medical and housing services to help prevent housing insecurity.

Kaine has long fought to build more housing, including affordable rental housing, and to open up opportunities for new generations of Americans to become homeowners. In March, Kaine cosponsored the Downpayment Toward Equity Act, legislation to support first-generation homebuyers and address the racial wealth gap. Kaine has also previously led legislation to protect veterans and low-income families from housing discrimination. Last year, Kaine announced over $98 million in federal funding to expand affordable housing and prevent homelessness in the Commonwealth.

Also last year, three of Kaine’s bipartisan bills to address the substance use crisis—the Providing Empathetic and Effective Recovery (PEER) Support Act, the Strengthening Communities of Recovery Act, and the Advancing Research for Chronic Pain Act—were passed by the HELP Committee. The bills would codify the Office of Recovery at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and cut red tape for peer support specialists who serve individuals recovering from a mental health condition or substance use disorder; reauthorize and expand the Building Communities of Recovery grant program, which provides resources for community-based organizations to develop and improve recovery services, including peer support, advocacy, education, employment assistance, and outreach to families and communities impacted by substance use disorder; and advance research and help clinicians and scientists more effectively study chronic pain conditions, respectively.

During National Recovery Month last year, Kaine joined U.S. Senators Edward J. Markey (D-MA) and Alex Padilla (D-CA) in a letter to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) calling for the implementation of a pilot program to provide mental health, substance use, and other supportive services for people experiencing homelessness, at risk of becoming homeless, or living in HUD-assisted housing.

The Housing ACCESS Act is endorsed by fair housing and housing insecurity organizations and mental health services across the nation, including the Northern Virginia Affordable Housing Alliance, Virginia Housing Alliance, and Vocal Virginia. The legislation was introduced by U.S. Senators Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and Cory Booker (D-NJ).

Full text of the bill is available here