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Bill Includes Support for Behavioral Health Providers, but Falls Short of $38.5 Billion Needed to Prevent Nationwide Public Health Calamity

The House of Representatives today passed the Health Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act, a $3 trillion COVID-19 response package. The National Council for Behavioral Health applauds the inclusion of several provisions that would support behavioral health providers.  But providers are in desperate need of significantly more direct support to avert a large-scale public health catastrophe. As such, the National Council continues to advocate for a $38.5 billion infusion of emergency funds for Community Behavioral Health Organizations (CBHOs), with a significant portion of these emergency funds dedicated to CBHOs enrolled in Medicaid and serving some of the nation’s most vulnerable individuals.

“We applaud passage of the HEROES Act but, unfortunately, it is not enough to prevent the looming collapse of our behavioral health care system,” National Council for Behavioral Health President and CEO Chuck Ingoglia said. “While many health care organizations have received emergency funding from the CARES Act, CBHOs remain in imminent danger of failing. Time is running out. If Congress does not act, millions of people living with mental illness or addiction will flood health centers, urgent care facilities and emergency rooms, all of which are already over-burdened.  We cannot let this happen. We urge bipartisan leaders in Congress to work together to make available the funding necessary to prevent a second crisis – the collapse of the behavioral health care system.”

At the beginning of April, nearly two-thirds of CBHOs (62.1%) estimated that their finances would allow them to survive for three months or less under the current COVID-19 conditions, according to a survey released by the National Council.

Since then, CBHOs have received very limited funds from the CARES Act. The National Council estimates that among organizations that received CARES Act funding, most received funding equal to less than one percent of their annual operating budget. In other words, most organizations did not receive enough funding to maintain operations for even one week – and certainly not enough to extend their financial viability beyond the end of June.

The HEROES Act includes several elements that will benefit the behavioral health field, including $3 billion for various programs within the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, $100 billion for the Health Care Provider Relief Fund, as well as a codified application process and formula for providers to access the funds, eligibility expansions for nonprofits in the Paycheck Protection Program. But unfortunately, the funds allocated to CBHOs in the HEROES Act fall well short of the $38.5 billion needed to avert a national mental health and substance use disorder crisis.

We look forward to continued discussions with Congress as we search for a solution to meet the needs of the heroes at our nation’s CBHOs.

 

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About the National Council for Behavioral Health

The National Council for Behavioral Health is the unifying voice of America’s health care organizations that deliver mental health and addictions treatment and services. Together with our 3,326 member organizations serving over 10 million adults, children and families living with mental illnesses and addictions, the National Council is committed to all Americans having access to comprehensive, high-quality care that affords every opportunity for recovery. The National Council introduced Mental Health First Aid USA and more than 2 million Americans have been trained.