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Rebecca Farley

Director, Policy & Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

Excellence in Mental Health Act Expansion Legislation Introduced

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On Wednesday, Senators Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) introduced the Expand Excellence in Mental Health Act (S. 2525) – legislation that would expand the Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics demonstration program to all 24 planning grant states. The National Council for Behavioral Health applauds the introduction of this critical bill and thanks Senators Blunt and Stabenow for their unwavering commitment to expanding Americans’ access to high-quality mental health and addiction treatment services.

“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.”

“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

Each year, more than one in five Americans experience a mental health condition and more than 22 million struggle with addiction. The opioid and heroin crisis continues to take a heartbreaking toll on our friends, families, and neighbors, with opioids involved in more than 28,000 deaths in 2014. The growing need for treatment and prevention services is straining the resources of our behavioral health system, and the lack of ready access to behavioral health services has a profound impact across American life. Two-thirds of inmates in our jails and prisons meet the criteria for a substance use disorder. Law enforcement agencies consistently report increasing encounters with individuals experiencing acute psychiatric symptoms – leading directly to a “boarding” crisis in hospital emergency rooms in cities large and small.

The bipartisan Excellence in Mental Health Act demonstration, enacted as part of the Protecting Access to Medicare Act of 2014, expands capacity in the behavioral health system to care for more Americans and alleviate the pressure on our nation’s jails and emergency rooms. Twenty-four states are currently planning their participation in the demonstration – but under current law, only eight will make the final cut.

“The Excellence in Mental Health Act was a critical step toward improving and expanding access to behavioral health services,” said Senator Blunt in a statement. “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.”