Senators Stabenow, Blunt Introduce Bill To Expand Funding for Community Mental Health Services

New Legislation is Next Step to Funding Quality Mental Health Care Nationwide

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

U.S. Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Roy Blunt (R-MO) introduced a bill to significantly increase funding for the program they championed to expand community mental health and substance abuse services the country. The Expand Excellence in Mental Health Act will ensure that all 24 states awarded mental health planning grants through an initiative based on Sens. Stabenow and Blunt’s Excellence in Mental Health Act can be funded. While the original law limited funding to eight states, President Obama today announced additional funding in his budget to expand the program to 14 states. 

24 states, including Michigan and Missouri, were selected in October to work with interested community mental health centers, Federally-Qualified Health Centers, VA clinics, and other mental health organizations to design a state program that meets the new quality standards for Certified Community Behavioral Health Centers. Under current law, eight of these 24 states will be selected to receive full funding for comprehensive community behavioral health services. The Expand Excellence in Mental Health Act will fund community mental health services for all 24 states, which is an important next step toward fully funding quality mental and behavioral health services nationwide. 


“Fully funding the Excellence in Mental Health Act is critical to making sure communities across the country have the resources they need to improve the lives of everyone living with mental illness and addictions” said Senator Stabenow.  “I appreciate the President’s call for an expansion of community mental health and substance abuse services in the budget, and our bill is an opportunity to take that another step further. Each and every state that came forward with a plan to increase access to community behavioral health services should be allowed to move forward immediately.”

“One in four adult Americans have a behavioral health issue that is both diagnosable and treatable.  Unfortunately, those coping with a mental health issue and their families are too often confronted with a health care system that is unable to provide the access and quality of care they need,” said Senator Blunt. “The Excellence in Mental Health Act was a critical step toward improving and expanding access to behavioral health services. The legislation we are introducing today will build upon that law, and take us even further toward our goal of bringing behavioral health care in line with the way other illnesses are treated.”


“This legislation is a critical step forward in making mental health and addiction care available to every American in need,” said Linda Rosenberg, President & CEO of the National Council for Behavioral Health. The Expand Excellence in Mental Health Act will expand Americans' access to lifesaving mental health and addiction care, while supporting providers with the resources to not only immediately help each individual who walks into a clinic, but to also coordinate their behavioral and physical health needs. Every state that is working to transform its care delivery system deserves to be able to do so. The National Council pledges to continue working with Senators Debbie Stabenow and Roy Blunt to ensure that all 24 states have the opportunity to implement Excellence Act resources.”


“Since the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School that took the life of my sweet little son, Daniel, we at Sandy Hook Promise have advocated for the expansion of critical mental health services so that more people can have access to high quality, integrated mental health care, and those who are in crisis can get help before anyone gets hurt,” said Mark Barden, Advocacy Director at Sandy Hook Promise.  “The Expand Excellence in Mental Health Act is an important step toward providing effective, quality mental health care nationwide. These grants will undoubtedly save lives and we are grateful to Senators Stabenow and Blunt for their leadership and tireless advocacy.”


“The Expand Excellence in Mental Health Act will transform behavioral health care in this country, driving a fragmented and underfunded system to one with expanded access to evidence-based treatments, integrated healthcare, and accountability,” said Brent McGinty, President & CEO, Missouri Coalition for Community Behavioral Healthcare. “Missouri's behavioral health community applauds Senators Blunt and Stabenow for being true mental health champions.”


“Our sheriff’s office is currently the gateway for the County’s mental health system, and caring for individuals with mental illness without the proper resources continues to be a growing challenge,” said Gene Wriggelsworth, Ingham County, Michigan Sheriff. “I have worked with Senator Stabenow to strengthen community mental health services in Ingham County for decades and appreciate her leadership to help law enforcement address this challenge and ensure patients across the nation get the care they need.”


Senators Stabenow and Blunt first introduced the Excellence in Mental Health Act in February 2013 to put community mental health centers on an equal footing with other health centers by improving quality standards and fully-funding community services and offering patients increased services like 24-hour crisis psychiatric care, counseling and integrated services for mental illness. The bill was signed into law by President Obama in 2014 and is one of the most significant steps forward in community mental health funding in decades.


The Expand Excellence in Mental Health Act is supported by over 50 mental health organizations including: American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Association for Behavioral Health and Wellness, American Psychological Association, Clinical Social Work Association, Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, Eating Disorders Coalition, Mental Health America, National Alliance on Mental Illness, National Council for Behavioral Health, Sandy Hook Promise, among many others.