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

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

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

U.S. Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Roy Blunt (R-MO) today announced they will be introducing a bill to significantly increase funding for the program they championed to expand community mental health and behavioral health services across the country. The bill that will be introduced by Senators Stabenow and Blunt will ensure that all 24 states awarded mental health planning grants through an initiative based on their Excellence in Mental Health Act can be funded. The original program limited funding to eight 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 Stabenow-Blunt legislation 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.

“This expansion is critical in making sure communities across the country have the resources they need to improve the lives of everyone living with mental illness,” said Senator Stabenow. “Each and every state that came forward with a plan to increase access to community mental health services should have the support they need.”

“One in four adult Americans have a behavioral health issue that is both diagnosable and treatable,” said Senator Blunt. “Ensuring that they have access to the mental health services they need is vital to strengthening our communities and keeping Americans safe. The Excellence in Mental Act, which was signed into law in 2014, was an important step toward improving access to mental health care. The legislation Senator Stabenow and I are introducing later this month will build on that success by expanding the eight-state pilot program created by the Excellence Act to all 24 states that are currently applying for the demonstration.”

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 law is supported by over 50 mental health organizations, veterans organizations and law enforcement organizations including: the National Association of Police Organizations, National Sheriffs' Association, American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, National Alliance on Mental Illness, the National Council for Behavioral Healthcare, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Mental Health America, National Association of Psychiatric Health System, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America and Give An Hour, among many others.