House Panel Examines 21st Century Cures Mental Health Initiatives
Implementation of the 21st Century Cures Act’s mental health provisions was the topic of a Congressional hearing last week. Lawmakers sought updates on the Administration’s progress in strengthening the behavioral health workforce and mental health parity enforcement. Dr. Elinore McCance-Katz, head of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), testified to her agency’s progress in addressing these initiatives as well as other pressing mental health and addiction issues.
Following opening statements from Committee members, Dr. McCance-Katz explained that she was strengthening leadership and accountability at SAMHSA by ensuring a strong clinical perspective at the agency. She is also working to implement recommendations from the Interdepartmental Serious Mental Illness Coordinating Committee (ISMICC) to focus on the following five areas: strengthening federal coordination to improve care; closing the gap between what works and what is offered; reducing justice involvement and improving care for those who are justice involved; making it easier to obtain evidence-based behavioral health care services; and developing finance strategies to increase availability and affordability of care.
When asked what SAMHSA was doing to support students’ mental health and safety in schools, Dr. McCance-Katz promoted Mental Health First Aid, which was reauthorized under the Cures Act, as a program that can help adults identify children’s needs early on and connect them to treatment. Other programs that were mentioned during the hearing as key to SAMHSA’s mission included the State Targeted Response grants that are pushing back against the opioid epidemic in the hardest-hit states, mental health courts for justice-involved individuals with mental illness, and training and technical assistance programs to educate health care providers on specific mental health issues.
As Congress continues its budgeting process for Fiscal Year 2019, the House Subcommittee will continue to hear from other members of the Trump Administration on their implementation of the 21st Century Cures Act to guide their decisions. View the full hearing and supporting documents on the Energy and Commerce Committee’s website here.