Senators Stabenow, Blunt Announce New Bill to Expand Community Mental Health and Addiction Services Nationwide

Legislation Builds on Historic 2014 Excellence in Mental Health and Addiction Treatment Act, Which is Transforming the Way We Fund Community Behavioral Health Services

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

U.S. Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Roy Blunt (R-MO) today announced their new bipartisan bill, the Excellence in Mental Health and Addiction Treatment Act of 2021. The legislation will expand high-quality mental health and addiction services nationwide by giving every state the opportunity to fully fund the creation of Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics in their communities as part of health care. Senators Stabenow and Blunt created these community clinics through the Excellence in Mental Health and Addiction Treatment Act, which became law in 2014.


Stabenow and Blunt’s 2014 law was the biggest step forward in expanding community mental health and addiction services in decades by allowing services to be funded through the health care system instead of just grants. Ten states, including Missouri and Michigan, have been selected for full participation in the Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic program. In addition, startup grants have expanded the number of clinics to more than 300 communities across 40 states, plus Washington D.C., and that number continues to grow. These clinics serve about 1.5 million people across the country.


The bill has bipartisan support and is cosponsored by U.S. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR), Senator Steve Daines (R-MT), Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA), Senator Tina Smith (D-MN) and Senator Jon Tester (D-MT).


“Mental illness and substance use disorders do not discriminate – they affect our parents, children, CEOs, students, teachers, veterans and other community leaders. For too long, our country has funded health care above the neck differently than health care below the neck. We are finally transforming the way we deliver high-quality services in our communities and the results are clear. It’s time to expand these highly successful clinics to people in every corner of our country,” said Senator Stabenow.


“Although we’ve nearly defeated this pandemic, our nation continues to face a significant mental and behavioral health crisis,” said Senator Blunt. “Studies have shown that, over the last year, more Americans have struggled with anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, and substance use. We can help more people get the care they need by expanding Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics. These clinics serve nearly 1.5 million Americans and have a proven record of increasing access to care, reducing hospitalizations, and decreasing emergency room visits. I urge all of our colleagues to support this bipartisan bill that will help change the way mental and behavioral health are treated in our nation.”


“This past year has been difficult, and with unprecedented social isolation and a continued struggle with illegal drug use in Montana, it is clear that more needs to be done to support individuals and families struggling with addiction or mental illness,” Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Finance Subcommittee on Health Care Daines said. “My bill will help integrate physical and mental health care, provide Montanans with access to treatment more quickly, and support community partnerships to improve care, reduce recidivism, and prevent hospital readmissions.” 


“Everyone in Nevada should have access to treatment for mental health and substance use disorders,” said Senator Cortez Masto. “Community Behavioral Health Clinics provide a range of services, and for many Nevadans who are struggling, they’re a critical lifeline. This bill will help bolster these clinics across Nevada and the country. Destigmatizing mental health and getting vulnerable Nevadans the help they need are among my top priorities, and I’ll keep working to pass commonsense legislation that promotes quality mental health care.”


“This bipartisan legislation would make real strides to combat this nation’s mental health and addiction crises,” said Senator Tester. “Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics are already making a difference in our communities, and increasing access to these types of clinics couldn’t be more necessary to ensuring that uninsured or low income Montanans, and veterans, have access to essential behavioral health services—keeping our state healthier and safer for years to come.”


“When I experienced depression, resources were there for me. But right now, too many people don’t have access to the behavioral health care they need,” said Senator Smith. “This is why it's important that we fully fund Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics. I want anyone suffering from a mental health issue to know they are not alone. We can all help break the stigma by talking about it, and then we have to go to work to get people the services they need.”


“Access to decent mental health and substance use treatment should not depend on where you live. Since 2017 the CCBHC program has provided life-saving care to millions of people and allowed mental health and substance use treatment organizations to reduce wait times, hire more staff, improve collaboration with criminal justice agencies and enhance care coordination with hospitals. Expanding the CCBHC program is the best solution to combat the rise in reported mental health conditions and overdose deaths across the country. We encourage Congress to pass the Excellence Act,” said Chuck Ingoglia, President and CEO, National Council for Mental Wellbeing.


“Too often, the criminal justice system is the de facto mental health facility for incarcerated individuals – a flawed approach to treating people living with mental health or substance use challenges in our communities. But thanks to the CCBHC program, we have been able to build a better system that diverts those with mental illness from correctional facilities and reduces recidivism among those struggling with a mental illness or substance use challenge. Through our partnership with Burrell Behavioral Health, a CCBHC here in Springfield, Missouri, we can better identify those who have mental health care needs and then coordinate a proper plan to meet them. Passing the Excellence Act will help spur new partnerships like ours across the country and make every community safer and healthier,” said Chief Paul Williams, Chief of Police for Springfield, Missouri.


Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics are required to provide a comprehensive set of services including 24/7/365 crisis services; outpatient mental health and substance abuse treatment services; immediate screenings, risk assessments, and diagnoses; and care coordination including partnerships with emergency rooms, law enforcement, and veterans groups.


new report, authored by the National Council for Mental Wellbeing, shows that these community clinics are increasing access to high-quality mental health and addiction treatment that is making a difference in the lives of thousands of people in communities across the country.


Statistics from the Department of Health and Human Services show that people who received services at these clinics: 
·      Had 63.2% fewer emergency department visits. 
·      Spent 60.3% less time in jails. 
·      And saw a 40.7% decrease in homelessness.