“Behavioral health is a priority for the Department of Health and Human Services. The COVID-19 pandemic has made clear the need to invest resources in our nation’s mental health and address the inequities that still exist around behavioral health care.” – Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra announcing the department’s new Behavioral Health Coordinating Council.
HHS Announces Grant Funding, New Coordinating Council
This week, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) announced that it will be awarding a total of $3 billion provided by the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 for mental health and substance use block grants, with $1.5 billion to be disbursed each by the Community Mental Health Services Block Grant Program and Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant Program to states and territories to support communities grappling with mental health and substance use needs during the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra announced the formation of a new Behavioral Health Coordinating Council (BHCC) to oversee behavioral health throughout HHS.
Governors’ Mental Health Awareness Month Proclamations
Local and national mental health advocates, including Mental Health First Aid USA, from the National Council for Mental Wellbeing, applaud the release of proclamations by governors across the country in recognition of May as Mental Health Awareness Month. Governors are directly navigating the mental health and substance use challenges exacerbated by COVID-19 and recognize the need for community-based interventions like Mental Health First Aid.
CMS Guidance on Enhanced FMAP for HCBS Improvements
CMS recently issued guidance to states regarding a temporary enhancement of funding for Medicaid home and community-based services (HCBS) under the American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act of 2021. The State Medicaid Director letter provides guidance to states regarding the implementation of the temporary increase to a state’s federal medical assistance percentage (FMAP) of 10 percentage points for certain Medicaid HCBS expenditures authorized by the ARP. This temporary FMAP increase is available to states beginning April 1, 2021 through March 31, 2022, and funds can be used through March 31, 2024 to improve HCBS services in the state.
Treasury Departments Allows Use of ARP Funding for Substance Use
The Department of the Treasury recently released an interim final rule for states on acceptable uses of funding from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARP), which now includes mental health, substance use, and other behavioral health services related to the pandemic. This interim final rule follows a letter Representatives Spanberger (D-VA), McKinley (R-WV), and Trone (D-MD) led earlier this month to the Secretary of the Treasury, urging guidance on ARP funding being used to address the overdose crisis.
National Council Ambassador Network. Members of the National Council’s Ambassador Network are superstar advocates dedicated to cultivating strong relationships with their elected federal officials. It’s said that “all politics is local,” so Ambassadors play a critical role in highlighting the local impact of federal policies – and when votes come down to the wire, their relationships with legislators can give them influence to tip the scales. Learn more and apply today!
HAPPENING ON THE HILL
Virtual Briefing: Fulfilling the Promise of 988: Understanding the Behavioral Health Crisis Care Continuum. Last September, Congress passed the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act, creating a new three-digit dialing code (9-8-8) for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
Understanding the Behavioral Health Crisis Care Continuum
House Appropriations Discusses Mental Health Emergencies. The House Appropriations Subcommittee on the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Related Agencies recently held a hearing entitled “Mental Health Emergencies: Building a Robust Crisis Response System.” This discussion focused on the upcoming implementation of the 9-8-8 crisis hotline, police involvement with crisis intervention, and barriers and solutions to providing care for those in crisis. Read more.