National Council for Mental Wellbeing

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May 24, 2017

Joy Burwell
(202) 748-8789

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The budget released yesterday by the President is deeply troubling, and signals the intent to move the country backward, not forward, in treating our most vulnerable citizens.

The National Council for Mental Wellbeing has major concerns about the proposed reductions in the SAMHSA budget, the agency largely responsible for providing resources and treatment to those suffering from mental illnesses and addiction, including:

  • A reduction of $116 million from FY 2017 in Community Mental Health Services Block Grant funding. Services funded by the block grant include supported employment and housing, rehabilitation, case management, jail diversion programs and services for people who are homeless, live in rural areas and military families. Most of these resources are not covered under private and public insurance.
  • The elimination of funding for the Primary and Behavioral Healthcare Integration program, which received $52 million in FY 2017. Thanks to this program, more than 70,000 people with serious mental illness and addiction have been screened and treated at 185 grantee sites for conditions like diabetes, heart disease and other common and deadly illnesses.
  • The addition of $500 million to combat the opioid epidemic, at the expense of other substance use prevention and treatment programs. Although funding is needed to combat the opioid epidemic, community providers still need to provide non-opioid substance use services.
  • Mental Health First Aid funding, which has been appropriated the last four years, received no funding. Currently, the funding is used to support training individuals to identify, understand and respond to signs of mental illness and substance use so that people in crisis can be connected to professional, peer or other help.

These callous and draconian cuts will make it nearly impossible to even maintain the current levels of insufficient mental health and substance use services, in a country where need is escalating.

The proposed budget also cuts over $74 billion from Social Security’s programs, including Social Security Old-Age, Survivors’, and Disability Insurance, as well as Supplemental Security Income. Between the proposed cuts, punitive work requirements and other harsh measures, benefits will be slashed or cut entirely for the extremely low-income seniors, children and adults with significant disabilities who rely on them.

Additionally, the President proposes cutting $610 billion over the next decade to Medicaid, in addition to the $880 billion in cuts in the American Health Care Act that passed in the House. Medicaid is one of the most important payers of mental health and addiction services in the U.S., paying for 25% of mental health treatment and 21% of substance use treatment. This drastic reduction in federal investment, shifts tremendous costs onto states and beneficiaries, restricts access to care for people who desperately need it, and increases the number of uninsured and underinsured.

Congress has made great bipartisan strides in recent years, providing more care for those with mental illnesses and addiction, including the passage of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act and the 21st Century Cures Act. We should be building on this progress, not tearing it down.

The National Council urges Congress to introduce and pass a budget that adequately supports mental illness and addiction treatment services.