In the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre anniversary, and several other incidents of gun violence where suspected perpetrators may have had mental issues, the Obama administration is investing more funding to ensure those with mental health issues can get the necessary help they may need.
Today, the White House and Vice President Biden announced that $100 million will soon be available to increase access to mental health services and improve mental health facilities.
“The fact that less than half of children and adults with diagnosable mental health problems receive the treatment they need is unacceptable. The President and I have made it a priority to do everything we can to make it easier to access mental health services, and today’s announcements by the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services and Agriculture build on that commitment,” said Vice President Biden.
Over the past several years, the Administration has taken steps to reduce the stigma associated with seeking help for mental illness, and to ensure that millions of Americans have access to health insurance that covers mental health and substance abuse disorder services at parity with medical and surgical benefits. Also, the President has proposed an additional $130 million in his FY 2014 Budget for efforts such as helping to ensure teachers and other adults who work with youth can recognize signs of mental illness and connect children and their families to the treatment they need.
Today’s Announcement: $100 Million to Increase Access to Mental Health Services
· $50 Million for Mental Health Services at Community Health Centers: The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will soon issue a $50 million funding opportunity to help Community Health Centers establish or expand behavioral health services for people living with mental illness or addiction. Community Health Centers can use these new funds, made available through the Affordable Care Act, for efforts such as hiring new mental health professionals and adding mental health and substance abuse disorder services.
· $50 Million to Improve Mental Health Facilities: Because proximity to mental health services can be a unique challenge in rural America, the Department of Agriculture has a new goal: to finance $50 million for the construction, expansion, or improvement of mental health facilities in rural areas over the next three years. These funds, made available through the Department’s Community Facilities direct loan program, can be used to improve or construct mental health service facilities or put in place innovative tools such as telemedicine to expand access to mental health services at rural schools, community centers, hospitals, and other community-based settings.
Building on a Record of Improving Access to Mental Health Care
Additionally, as part of the President and the Vice President’s gun violence reduction plan announced last January, the Administration has completed several key executive actions to increase access to mental health services, including:
· HHS, the Department of Labor, and the Treasury Department issued a final rule implementing the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008. Under this rule, insurers must cover benefits for mental health and substance abuse disorders, when offered, at parity with medical and surgical care benefits. The regulation also includes important consumer protections, such as clarifying the information that insurance companies must provide to ensure transparency and compliance with the law.
· The Administration hosted the National Conference on Mental Health to discuss ways to reduce stigma and help the millions of Americans struggling with mental health problems. The White House applauded the dozens of commitments to increase understanding and awareness of mental health that were made by organizations representing media, educators, health care providers, faith communities, and foundations.
Calling on Congress to Act
The President’s FY 2014 Budget proposes a new $130 million initiative to address several barriers that may prevent people from accessing help. The initiative proposes to train teachers to recognize signs of mental illness and refer students to mental health services when needed. It supports the training of an additional 5,000 mental health professionals. And it would give grants to states to implement innovative strategies to help young people ages 16 to 25 with mental health or substance abuse issues. The Administration continues to call on Congress to appropriate funds for these important purposes.