Stabenow, Blunt, Matsui, Mullin Announce Bipartisan Bill to Expand Funding for Community Mental Health Services

Legislation builds on landmark 2014 Excellence in Mental Health and Addiction Treatment Act, one of the most significant steps forward in community mental health in decades

Thursday, March 14, 2019

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Representatives Doris Matsui (CA-06) and Markwayne Mullin (OK-02) today announced the Excellence in Mental Health and Addiction Treatment Expansion Act at an event in Washington, D.C. The legislation renews and expands funding for Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics (CCBHCs), which were established in landmark 2014 legislation, the Excellence in Mental Health and Addiction Treatment Act. Funding for these clinics, which are required to provide a comprehensive set of mental health and addiction services, is set to run out starting on March 31, 2019.


The lawmakers were joined by Dea Duggan, a 39-year-old mother of four from Buffalo, New York who has received comprehensive care for mental health and substance abuse issues at a CCBHC; Laura Heebner, the Executive Vice President of Compass Health Network in Missouri, a CCBHC that faces funding cuts; Assistant Police Chief James Willyard of the Pryor Creek, Oklahoma Police Department; and Chirlane McCray, the First Lady of New York City and Founder of Cities Thrive Coalition.


“About one in five people worldwide is affected by mental illness, and drug overdoses are now the leading cause of death for Americans under 50. These disorders do not discriminate – they affect our parents, our veterans, our friends, and our children,” said Senator Stabenow. “Thanks to our Excellence in Mental Health and Addiction Treatment Act, more people are getting care for the first time at clinics close to home.


“I’ve been to clinics all over Missouri that are participating in the Excellence demonstration and I always hear the same thing: this program is working,” said Senator Blunt. “It is helping more people get mental health and addiction treatment, in many cases faster and closer to where they live. It is allowing law enforcement to connect people struggling with opioid use disorder with the help they need, cutting down on incarcerations and emergency room visits. This legislation will continue moving us closer to our goal of treating mental health like all other health, and I look forward to working with my colleagues to get it done.”  

“This legislation will protect urgently needed mental health and addiction treatment services in communities around the country,” said Congresswoman Matsui. “CCBHCs have dramatically increased access to 24-hour mental health care and substance use disorder treatment. Our bipartisan, bicameral legislation is vital for patients to continue to receive the necessary and comprehensive mental health and addiction support services they depend on and Congress must act now to extend this critical program.”


“For the first time ever in the United States, an individual is more likely to die of an opioid overdose than in a car accident,” said Congressman Markwayne Mullin. “Over 7 million opioid pills were prescribed in Muskogee County in 2017. That is enough for every man, woman, and child in Muskogee County to receive 100 pills. Now more than ever, our communities need help. The Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic (CCBHB) pilot program in Oklahoma has provided assistance for those battling mental illness and substance abuse disorders for the last two years. Unless Congress acts, the pilot program and its funding will expire at the end of March 2019. Now is not the time to cut funding to opioid treatment programs. It is vitally important that the good work being done in our communities can continue so I am proud to introduce the Excellence in Mental Health and Addiction Treatment Act to allow exactly that.”


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.


The CCBHC pilot program is set to end on March 31, 2019 in Oregon and Oklahoma and June 30, 2019 in Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania. If funding is not extended for CCBHCs, an estimated 3,009 staff newly hired to expand services and treat more people could be laid off, more than 9,000 patients could lose their medication-assisted treatment, and 77% of CCBHCs will have to re-establish wait lists.


The Excellence in Mental Health and Addiction Treatment Expansion Act would expand the number of states eligible to participate in the Certified Community Behavioral Health Center demonstration from eight to 19 and give the eight participating states two years of additional funding.


“Prior to BestSelf Behavioral Health Clinic, I relapsed more than 20 times and couldn’t get my life on track,” said Dea Duggan, a 39-year-old mother of four from Buffalo, NY who receives comprehensive care for mental health and substance abuse issues. “Without the comprehensive services and dedicated staff at BestSelf, I wouldn’t be here today. I look forward to coming to BestSelf every day. It’s the only way I know I can make it through my day.”


“The data is ‘in.’ The Excellence Act demonstration is a success.  It’s time to accelerate this success and move mental health care into the health care mainstream,” said Laura Heebner, Executive Vice President, Compass Health Network.


“Prior to the CCBHC demonstration, our officers would spend four to five hours, if not days with a person experiencing a mental health or substance use crisis, waiting in emergency rooms at our local hospital, and then traveling up to an hour to the nearest treatment center,” said James Willyard,  Assistant Chief of Police at the Pryor Creek Police Department in Pryor, Oklahoma. “With funding through the CCBHCs, and the availability of immediate access to treatment, we are saving up to 12 hours a day, per officer when serving citizens in need of mental health or substance use services. I strongly support extending the CCBHC model for additional years so our community can have the resources it needs to help families and individuals get into treatment and recovery instead of jail or the hospital.”


“The painful reality is that all across the country, too many people are in crisis – grappling with the inadequacy of mental health and addiction services.” said First Lady of NYC, Chirlane McCray, Founder of the Cities Thrive Coalition. “The Excellence Act has helped equip communities in eight states – including New York – to begin turning the tide on this crisis, and get more people the community-based treatments and supports they need. We urge Congress to quickly pass this legislation. Lives depend on it.”


“The passage of the Excellence in Mental Health Act began to address the desperate demand for treatment of addictions and mental illnesses,” said Linda Rosenberg, President and Chief Executive Officer of the National Council for Behavioral Health. “The eight states are leading a bold shift in this country, transforming community services from a patchwork of underfunded and overburdened organizations into a thriving array of clinics that provide patient-centered care. This important legislation would allow current innovation to continue for another two years, expand the opportunity so others struggling can get effective care and enable important analysis and learning that can be shared nationwide.”


U.S. Senators Joni Ernst (R-IA), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and Ron Wyden (D-OR) cosponsored this legislation.