The Help Act

What is the HELP Act?

The HELP (the Human Services Emergency Logistic Program) Act would provide $550 million in funding for 211 to coordinate with 911 and 988 (the national suicide prevention hotline) to holistically address the on-going mental health crisis in this country. It will allow for increased coordination between emergency services and will enable them to connect people to the appropriate mental health and community services they need.

Why is it important?

In the wake of COVID-19, millions of people are facing mental health issues – many for the first time – and millions more have had their existing challenges exacerbated. Dubbed by many mental health professionals as the “second pandemic,” it’s crucial that steps be taken to increase resources for those in need.

When will it be introduced?

Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) and Senator Jerry Moran (R-KS) plan to introduce the legislation during the week of April 19 or April 26.

Who are the current cosponsors of the bill?

As of April 4, Senators Hirono (D-HI), Duckworth (D-IL), Gillibrand (D-NY) and Sanders (D-VT) have signed on to cosponsor the HELP Act.

Which organizations have endorsed the bill?

The current organization supporters are: United Way Worldwide, Fraternal Order of Police, Association of Rural Independent Living Programs, Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, National Association of the Deaf, the Autism Society of America, Association of University Centers on Disabilities, National Association of Area Agencies on Aging, ACHIEVA, American Network of Community Options and Resources, National Down Syndrome Congress, Autism Connection of Pennsylvania, Rehabilitation and Community Providers Association of Pennsylvania, A.J. Drexel Autism Institute, 2-1-1 Washington, United Way of Lancaster County, United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania.

If passed, what will the funding look like?

Funding allocations within the bill will be separate for 211 and 988. For the first two years, each year is funded at $550 million. Out of this amount, $350 million will be specifically designated for 211. For the next five years, there will be $450 million per year, with $300 million set aside for 211. There will be separate allocations for 211 and 988 resources.

How will the level of funding per capita be determined?

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will issue the funding. This will be determined by a formula designed by the Secretary of HHS’s office. Contributing factors include population, population density and demonstration of need.

What if a 211 provider serves across state lines?

If a 211 provider serves two states, like the Kansas City location that serves Kansas and Missouri and the Philadelphia location that serves Pennsylvania and parts of New Jersey, the two State Human Services Collaboratives can negotiate on the distribution of funding to ensure that location can operate in both states.

What are the chances this legislation will be passed in Congress?

While we are working diligently to build bipartisan and bicameral support for this legislation, we know that thousands of bills are introduced during each Congress and very few of them end up becoming law. Advancing this legislation will require recruiting strong congressional champions, mobilizing grassroots support across our network, and finding a legislative vehicle to attach the legislation to. Advocacy does not happen overnight, so we’ll need sustained support from partners and our network to gain traction.

What action can I take right now to support the HELP Act?

Local United Ways, state associations and 211s can support the bill by advocating for it in your communities and with your representatives! Also, you can build strong relationships with your state government and 988 to lay the foundation for successful implementation.