The Trump administration will take nearly $5 million from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to help fund its coronavirus response efforts.
The administration is transferring $136 million from other programs and has requested another $1.25 billion in new funding to help pay for research and prevention efforts.
That includes $4.9 million that’s being transferred from SAMHSA, as well as $63 million from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which does medical and behavioral health research.
“It is not an easy decision to transfer funds from other HHS programs, but it provides needed resources to continue the department’s robust and multi-layered public health preparedness and response efforts,” an HHS spokesperson told The Hill.
Meanwhile, National Council for Behavioral Health President and CEO Chuck Ingoglia called the move an interruption to the progress being made in the fight against the opioid epidemic.
“While the amount of money in question may seem small, people will suffer because SAMHSA plays a vital role in the fight against the opioid epidemic and in efforts to address our mental health crises,” Ingoglia said in a statement.
For reference, SAMHSA was allotted $5.9 billion in the 2020 budget. Still, Ingoglia urged the administration to find a new funding source.
“The administration’s decision is ironic in light of its 2017 declaration that the opioid epidemic represents a public health emergency,” he said. “A transfer of SAMHSA funds also sets a precedent, and it’s not difficult to imagine the administration misappropriating SAMHSA funds again.”
As of Feb. 27, the United States had confirmed 60 cases of the virus.