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Rebecca Farley

Director, Policy & Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

House Passes 2014 Budget Deal; Includes Funding Bump for Mental Health

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The House yesterday easily approved a $1 trillion omnibus budget bill, the result of intensive negotiations over the last month to fund government operations for the remainder of 2014 and avert another shutdown. The bill, which is also expected to pass the Senate this week, increases mental health funding over 2013 levels and includes $15 million for Mental Health First Aid training.

The bipartisan, bicameral 2014 budget agreement (H.R. 3547) reduces the impact of the sequestration cuts and largely spares healthcare programs from major reductions. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) will receive a $144 million increase over fiscal year 2013 levels, for a total budget of $3.6 billion. Among the highlights of the SAMHSA budget are:

  • $15 million for a new grant program to provide Mental Health First Aid training to police officers, first responders, judges, social workers and the staff of college and university counseling centers, among others
  • $50 million for the Primary-Behavioral Health Care Integration (PBHCI) program, which supports the co-location of services in behavioral health and primary care settings
  • $1.8 billion for the Substance Abuse Block Grant, a $110 million increase over the 2013 post-sequester level
  • $484 million for the Mental Health Block Grant, 5 percent of which will be used to support evidence-based programs that address the needs of individuals with early serious mental illness, including psychotic disorders
  • $40 million for new Project AWARE grants, which will provide 20 grants to State Education Authorities for comprehensive programs in 1,000-1,500 schools to get students with mental health issues referred to needed services
  • $46 million for the National Child Traumatic Stress Initiative
  • $48 million for the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act programs

Securing federal funding for Mental Health First Aid training has long been a priority for the National Council. President & CEO Linda Rosenberg praised the budget deal, saying “Mental Health First Aid is a low-cost but high-impact way to make a real difference.  The new funding from SAMHA will ensure that thousands of professionals working on the front lines will have access to this simple but highly effective training… These skills can save lives, and we applaud SAMHSA for providing this essential funding.”

Among other health agencies and programs that receive increases in the spending package are the National Institutes of Health. The $29.9 billion allocated to NIH includes support for the Brain Research through Application of Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative, a multi-agency effort to map the human brain.

The federal government has been operating under a series of stopgap funding resolutions since 2012. The omnibus 2014 budget bill represents the first time in several years that Congress has been able to reach agreement on all of the line item appropriations that make up the annual budget.