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Rebecca Farley

Director, Policy & Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

President Obama Releases 2017 Budget Request; Includes New Behavioral Health Funding

February 11, 2016 | Federal Budget | Comments
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President Obama on Tuesday released the final budget request of his administration, reflecting an expansive vision of his legacy upon leaving office. Amid growing attention to the twin issues of mental health and addiction, the budget request includes $500 million for a series of two-year mental health initiatives and $1.1 billion for new addiction treatment, prevention and recovery programs. Overall, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration request of $4.3 billion represents a $590 million increase from 2016.

Among the key provisions of interest to mental health and addiction providers across all Health and Human Service agencies are:

  • Excellence in Mental Health Act Expansion: As part of the President’s $500 million mental health initiative, the budget request would add 6 additional states to the Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic demonstration program, at an estimated cost of $110 million. The National Council has long advocated for the expansion of this important program and sees this as a step in the right direction in offering every American access to quality behavioral health care.
  • Behavioral Health IT: The budget request would add behavioral health providers to the federal Meaningful Use incentive program that supports providers in adopting health information technology. A long standing priority of the National Council’s, the President’s proposed expansion is similar to the Behavioral Health IT Act. Newly eligible providers include community mental health centers, residential and outpatient substance use treatment facilities, psychiatric hospitals, and psychologists.
  • Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant: the budget requests $1.8 billion for the block grant, level to 2016 funding.
  • Mental Health First Aid: the budget requests $15 million for MHFA trainings, level to 2016 funding.
  • Primary Care Behavioral Health Integration: the budget requests $26 million for PBHCI, a $23 million cut from 2016.
  • Early intervention in serious mental illness: As part of the President’s $500 million mental health initiative, the budget requests a new mandatory appropriation of $230 million over the next two years to provide evidence-based services to individuals experiencing the early onset of psychosis or other serious mental illnesses. Additionally, the budget request maintains the 10 percent early intervention set-aside enacted in the 2016 mental health block grant.

Among the initiatives supported by the new $1.1 billion request to address the opioid epidemic are:

  • $920 million to expand access to medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorders. States will receive funds based on the severity of the epidemic and on the strength of their strategy to respond to it. States can use these funds to expand treatment capacity and make services more affordable.
  • $50 million in National Health Service Corps funding to expand access to substance use treatment providers. This funding will help support approximately 700 providers able to provide substance use disorder treatment services, including medication-assisted treatment, in areas across the country most in need of behavioral health providers.
  • $30 million to evaluate the effectiveness of treatment programs employing medication-assisted treatment under real-world conditions and help identify opportunities to improve treatment for patients with opioid use disorders.

The budget request would also allow Medicaid and CHIP enrollees to benefit from a full year of continuous eligibility, a critical step to alleviate “churning” in which enrollees cycle on and off the Medicaid rolls due to changes in income or address. In addition, it would incentivize states to expand Medicaid by clarifying that the federal government will cover 100% of all costs for the first three years of the expansion, regardless of when the state opted to expand. This policy would benefit states that have not yet decided to expand their Medicaid programs.

The President’s Budget request will now be evaluated by congressional appropriators, who will spend the next months working to craft their own versions of the twelve annual appropriation bills. Stay tuned to Capitol Connector for the latest news and updates.