WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Roy Blunt (Mo.) and Debbie Stabenow (Mich.) and Representatives Leonard Lance (N.J.) and Doris Matsui (Calif.) today announced a bill to significantly expand the program they championed to improve community mental and behavioral health services across the country. The bill will ensure that all eight states awarded funding through an initiative based on their Excellence in Mental Health Act can be funded for another year and will expand the program to 11 more states that already applied to participate in the program.
Last year, eight states received full funding for comprehensive community behavioral health and addiction services provided by mental health centers, Federally-Qualified Health Centers, VA clinics, and other mental health organizations. These programs must meet the new quality standards for Certified Community Behavioral Health Centers that were outlined in the Excellence in Mental Health Act. The new Blunt-Stabenow -Lance-Matsui legislation will fund services for these eight states for another year and expand the available funding to another 11 states, which is an important next step toward fully funding quality mental and behavioral health services nationwide.
“I’m proud that Missouri, as a participant in the Excellence in Mental Health Act pilot program, is leading the nation in developing strategies to improve and expand access to mental and behavioral treatment,” said Blunt. “This bill will allow all states in the pilot program to continue the important work that’s underway, and enable more states to join the effort. I urge my colleagues to support this bipartisan bill, and help get us closer to our goal of treating mental health like all other health in this country.”
“This expansion is critical in making sure communities across the country have the resources they need to improve the lives of anyone living with mental illness or recovering from addiction,” said Stabenow. “Each and every state that came forward with a plan to increase access to community mental health services should have the support they need.”
“The Excellence in Mental Health Act is working by improving coordination and services offered to those most in need,” said Lance. “New Jersey is one of the original states selected for increased funding for comprehensive mental health services and this bill makes sure we maintain the improved programming. States that come forward with a plan to improve mental health care need to have a strong federal partner thanks to this bicameral, bipartisan legislation.”
“For too long, there has been a lack of parity between physical and mental health care in this country,” said Matsui. “The passage of the Excellence in Mental Health Act was instrumental in our work to put mental health on a level playing field, and this legislation continues that needed progress. It would help ensure that more community behavioral health centers are equipped with the tools to bolster mental health and substance abuse services in neighborhoods across the country. I look forward to continuing to work with my House and Senate colleagues to move this bill forward, so that more people have access to quality mental health care where they live.”
“With rising rates of overdoses and suicides, the Excellence in Mental Health and Addiction Treatment Expansion Act offers lifesaving mental health and addictions services that people can count on,” said Linda Rosenberg, President and CEO of the National Council for Behavioral Health. “We thank Senators Debbie Stabenow and Roy Blunt and Representatives Leonard Lance and Doris Matsui for once again demonstrating their leadership and ongoing commitment to science-based community treatment.”
Blunt and Stabenow first introduced the Excellence in Mental Health Act in February 2013 to put community mental health centers on an equal footing with other health centers by improving quality standards and fully funding community services and offering patients increased services like 24-hour crisis psychiatric care, counseling and integrated services for mental health treatment. The bill was signed into law in 2014 and is one of the most significant steps forward in community mental health funding in decades.
The law is supported by over 50 mental health organizations, veterans organizations, and law enforcement organizations including: the National Association of Police Organizations, National Sheriffs’ Association, American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, National Alliance on Mental Illness, the National Council for Behavioral Health, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Mental Health America, National Association of Psychiatric Health Systems, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America and Give An Hour, among many others.