The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will inject billions of dollars into programs designed to address mental health and substance use disorders, including $ 3 billion released to states as of Tuesday, they reported federal officials.
He American Rescue Plan, a COVID relief package signed into law in March, contained the money, which will be split equally between the Community Mental Health Service Block Grant Program and the Substance abuse The grant program for prevention and treatment blocks, said Tom Coderre, deputy secretary in mental health and substance use functions, in a call to reporters.
The award amounts will vary by state.
He mental health program helps states and territories provide services for children with severe emotional problems and adults with severe mental illness.
He substance use program provides money to plan, implement, and evaluate prevention, intervention, treatment, and recovery services.
Introducing money into these programs is especially important in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, which fueled an increase in anxiety, depressionand overdose, said Deputy Secretary of Health Rachel Levine, MD, during the call.
“We know multiple stressors during the pandemic (isolation, illness, pain, job loss, food instability, and loss of routines) have devastated many Americans and presented unprecedented behavioral health challenges across the country,” said Levine.
HHS also announced that it would reinstate a Behavioral Health Coordination Council (BHCC). Levine and Coderre will serve as co-chairs of the Board, which will coordinate action-oriented approaches to address HHS’s behavioral health efforts.
However, in 2014, the U.S. Government Accountability Office criticized the BHCC only focused on HHS and noted the lack of coordination among the various federal government efforts to address mental health.
“A huge step forward”
The American Psychiatric Association (APA) welcomed the new money and the return of the Council.
“As a result of the pandemic, an unprecedented and even unprecedented number of Americans are facing mental health and substance use disorders, especially in communities affected by structural racism,” he said. APA President Vivian Pender, MD, in a statement. “With the creation of this Council and this investment in mental health, the administration is taking a big step forward.”
APA CEO and Medical Director Saul Levin, MD, MPA, added: “This Council has great potential to alleviate the challenges we face when we begin to recover from the impact of the pandemic on our society and APA hopes to be able to help in their efforts. ”
HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement that the COVID-19 pandemic has made clear the need to invest resources in our nation’s mental health and address the inequalities that still exist around behavioral health. “. He added: “This national problem requires coordination across the department to address the problem.”
Levine said the Council “will ensure proper prioritization and that there are established guidelines for providing pathways to prevention, intervention, treatment and recovery services.”
Alicia Ault is a freelance journalist based in Lutherville, Maryland, whose work has appeared in publications such as Smithsonian.com, the New York Times and the Washington Post. You can find her on Twitter @aliciaault.