Feds to Allocate Millions More for Mental Health and Substance Abuse Therapy

By Shawn Dwyer 12/13/13

The funds are only part of an overall effort by the White House to increase mental illness and substance use disorder spending.

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Some money will go to training new professionals.
Photo via Shutterstock

The U.S. government plans on spending $50 million from the Affordable Care Act in order to help Community Health Centers combat mental illness and substance abuse issues.

Issued through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the funds will be allocated to over 200 centers nationwide, and will be used in part to hire new mental health and substance use disorder professionals. "Most behavioral health conditions are treatable, yet too many Americans are not able to get needed treatment," said health department administrator Mary K. Wakefield. "These new Affordable Care Act funds will expand the capacity of our network of community health centers to respond to the mental health needs in their communities."

The new funds are just part of an overall effort to increase spending for mental health and substance abuse treatment. The White House budget also includes $130 million for teachers and other adults to help recognize mental illness in students, as well as train 5,000 more mental health professionals serving students; another $25 million has been set aside for grants to help kids exposed to violence; $2.3 billion will be allocated for mental health research; and over $1 billion will be set aside for mental health programs, including the $460 million for the Community Mental Health Services Block Grant.

Meanwhile, across the beltway the U.S. Senate has finally broken through with a bipartisan effort of its own to fund mental healthcare when the Senate Finance Committee adopted the Excellence in Mental Health Act, a bill sponsored by Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO). If passed, it will “establish criteria for certified community behavioral health clinics to ensure the providers cover a broad range of mental health services — including 24-hour crisis care, increased integration of physical, mental, and substance abuse treatment so they are treated simultaneously rather than separately, and expanded support for families of people living with mental health issues,” according to Stabenow’s press office.

The bill was introduced in February 2013 following the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook, but was stalled due to ongoing efforts by the Republican minority to dismantle President Obama’s signature healthcare law.

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Shawn Dwyer is a writer, editor and content producer living in Los Angeles. You can find him on Linkedin.