Community behavioral health organizations help the eight million Americans they serve — children and adults with serious mental illnesses and addictions — recover and lead productive lives in their communities. These healthcare organizations are on the front lines of improving health outcomes, providing crisis response and suicide prevention; alcohol and drug abuse treatment; comprehensive outpatient mental health services; and helping special populations like veterans and children. And, they stand ready to do more.
Unfortunately, after decades of budget cuts, our nation’s community behavioral health centers struggle to expand their services and aid all Americans in need of help. Far too many people lack access to the evidence-based treatments, robust support services, and community partnerships proven to produce better health outcomes. As a result, people with mental illnesses and addictions often end up with inadequate care provided in emergency rooms or jails, while federal and state governments face extra costs in schools, on the roads, and in courtrooms.
The bipartisan Excellence in Mental Health Act (S. 264/H.R. 1263), introduced by Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Representatives Doris Matsui (D-CA) and Leonard Lance (R-NJ), would help community behavioral health organizations meet the increased demand for robust services. This legislation provides enhanced Medicaid funding to these centers in return for meeting an advanced standard of care that ensures they offer a high quality, comprehensive range of evidence-based interventions to the individuals they serve. If enacted, the Excellence Act would help as many as 750,000 uninsured and low-income Americans with the most serious and persistent mental health conditions, including 100,000 returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan.
An amendment passed by the Senate Finance Committee as part of the Medicare SGR replacement bill would establish a 10-state demonstration program, but with no state Medicaid mandate. Key groups such as the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), the National Guard Association, National Sheriffs Association and the National Federation of Police have endorsed the Excellence Act.
Why do we need the Excellence in Mental Health Act?
Medicaid has become the primary funding source for mental health services in this country. Yet, with demand for behavioral healthcare higher than ever, community behavioral health centers are stretched too thin to fully meet this need in the face of inadequate funding. The enhanced funding available through the Excellence Act will help these centers expand their reach to all individuals in need of help.
At the same time, money alone cannot address the behavioral health needs of millions of Americans. The Excellence Act would establish strict standards on quality of care and demonstrated outcomes to ensure behavioral health services are integrated with physical services, making care more efficient and reducing costs associated with uncoordinated care.
LEARN MORE about the bill:
- Excellence in Mental Health Act fact sheet and section-by-section summary
- Current list of cosponsors for H.R. 1263 and S. 264
- Slides and recording from our webinar, “Explaining the Excellence in Mental Health Act”
- Read the National Council Magazine Article, “May We Have the Definition Please?“
Letters of support
- Mental Health Liaison Group
- National Coalition on Health Care
- National Sheriff’s Association
- National Federation of Police
- National Guard Association of the United States
- Military Mental Health Project
Visit our Action Center to see the latest opportunities to urge your lawmakers to support the Excellence Act.