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Michael Petruzzelli

, National Council for Mental Wellbeing

House Kicks Off Budget Season, HHS Defends FY2017 Budget Request

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Appropriations season is officially underway on Capitol Hill, with Obama Administration officials defending their FY2017 budget requests before Congress this week. On Wednesday, Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell participated in her third hearing this month, highlighting key health components of the President’s budget request before the House Energy and Commerce Committee. The Secretary’s comments focused on many important topics, including: expansion of the Excellence in Mental Health Act, evidence-based solutions to the nation’s opioid epidemic, and state Medicaid expansion and reform to ensure needed coverage of millions of Americans.


The Secretary spent much of the two and a half hour hearing providing details and insights on a number of the President’s behavioral health proposals. Of particular importance to National Council members was the long discussion focused on the Administration’s proposed solutions to address the opioid epidemic. The President’s proposed solutions include: the expanded use of medication-assisted treatment; improving prescribing practices and further dissemination of best practices; and increasing the development and use of naloxone, targeting the hardest hit communities across the country.


Secretary Burwell also commented on the President’s proposed investment in mental health treatment services, saying the budget aims to “engage individuals with serious mental illness in care, improve access to care by increasing service capacity through certified community behavioral health clinics, boost the behavioral health workforce, and ensure that behavioral health care systems work for everyone.” Congresswoman Doris Matsui (D-CA), lead sponsor of the Expand Excellence in Mental Health Act (S. 2525/ H.R. 4567), made specific mention of the President’s proposed expansion of the Excellence Act demonstration program, thanking the Administration for its commitment to those living with mental illness and substance use disorders.


The Secretary has provided similar testimony before House Committees on the Budget, Appropriations and Ways and Means. These hearings will continue on Capitol Hill for the next few weeks as Congress deliberates on final appropriations for the FY2017 budget.