President Joe Biden has signed into law the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill that will boost unemployment benefits, provide stimulus checks to most Americans, ramp up the coronavirus vaccine roll out and set aside funding for small businesses and schools.
More importantly for behavioral health providers — 40% of whom are on the verge of financial collapse — the legislation also includes billions of dollars for behavioral health services.
Specifically, the American Rescue Plan includes:
- $1.65 billion for Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) block grants for Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment
- $825 million for SAMHSA block grants for Community Mental Health Services
- $420 million for SAMHSA Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics (CCBHCs) Expansion Grants
- $8.5 billion in new Provider Relief Fund money for providers serving rural communities
- More than $450 million in new funding for SAMHSA and the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) programs to finance behavioral health services, workforce education and training and other initiatives
Industry trade groups such as the National Council for Behavioral Health and the National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers (NAATP) lauded the American Rescue Act when Congress passed it earlier this week.
At the same time, though, National Council CEO Chuck Ingoglia stressed the industry’s need for ongoing federal support, as providers continue to grapple with two different national health emergencies: a behavioral health crisis and COVID-19.
Even before the pandemic hit, behavioral health providers were operating under less-than-ideal circumstances: Demand was high, while reimbursement was low, margins were slim and workforce shortages were pervasive.
COVID-19 has only compounded those problems, worsening Americans’ mental health and driving up drug overdoses.
“We applaud Congress for taking significant action today,” Ingoglia said in a statement. “Because the nation’s mental health crisis will last for years to come, we will continue working with lawmakers on sustainable solutions to address the growing demand for mental health and substance use treatment and workforce challenges that organizations across the country face.”