In my first case out of law school, I partnered with the American Academy of Pediatrics on a landmark civil rights lawsuit representing kids from low- income families who were having …
In my first case out of law school, I partnered with the American Academy of Pediatrics on a landmark civil rights lawsuit representing kids from low- income families who were having trouble accessing healthcare, many of whom had to travel hours to get the services they needed.
I argued in federal court then, and I believe in my heart-and-soul today, that healthcare should be a civil right in America—not something that is available only to those privileged enough to afford it and certainly not something that bankrupts so many American families.
As I’ve traveled across Sullivan County and the rest of New York’s new 19th Congressional District, folks have confirmed that we are facing critical care shortages in our rural communities. Here are some steps I plan to take in Congress to address this issue:
First, we must address provider shortages in rural communities.
Too many people must travel too far to get the care they need, and that is especially challenging with gas prices as high as they are today. In Sullivan County, critical care facilities are being moved to more urban areas or they’re being closed altogether.
I’ll support proposals to strengthen the National Health Services Corps to provide support for nurses and medical professionals who choose to serve in rural communities, and I’ll support the NURSE Act to make sure kids have access to basic care in schools, one of the most convenient places for them to receive it.
Second, we should treat high-speed Internet access as a public health issue.
Building on experience from the pandemic, Congress should improve access to telemedicine whenever practicable, especially for monitoring chronic conditions.
Passage of the bipartisan Increasing Rural Telehealth Access Act would be a good first step, and because effective telemedicine requires reliable high- speed Internet, it is critical that rural communities in Upstate New York receive funds from the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act for that purpose.
Third, we need to put mental health on par with physical health.
Nearly one-in-five Americans experience a mental health condition, but only about half receive needed treatment. Worse still, because our mental health system is so badly underfunded, America’s criminal justice system has become a de facto (and ill-equipped) substitute.
As counsel on the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, I worked to improve funding for mental health services because I agree with the National Alliance on Mental Illness that people in crisis generally deserve help, not handcuffs.
In Congress, I’ll support proposals to provide communities the resources they need to build mental health treatment capacity. These proposals help people who need it, and they also provide a good return on taxpayers’ investments.
Josh Riley is a Tompkins County resident and Broome County native running for Congress in New York’s 19th District. He previously served as counsel in the United States Senate.
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