The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is distributing $3 billion in American Rescue Plan funding for mental health and substance use disorder (SUD) block grants, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has announced.
At the same time, HHS is establishing a new Behavioral Health Coordinating Council (BHCC), according to the department.
HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said the working internal council within HHS will help break down care silos and create a “one-department approach” to behavioral health.
“We’re ready to launch,” Becerra said during a virtual press conference to go with the news. “We’re looking for partners who want to be there with us all the way through. We’re going to get some things done, [and] we’re going to make good use of those dollars. We want to be accountable to the people who really need this help and the services.”
The Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use and the Assistant Secretary for Health will serve as the co-chairs of BHCC, which is made up of senior leaders from HHS. The big-picture goal is to facilitate collaborative, innovative, transparent and equitable ways to deliver on HHS’s behavioral health agenda.
The formation of BHCC and the distribution of the new money coincide with Mental Health Awareness month. Additionally, both come just about two months after HHS announced nearly $2.5 billion in supplemental funding for the mental health and SUD block grant programs back in March.
Those programs include the Community Mental Health Services Block Grant (MHBG) Program and the Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant Program (SABG).
The newly announced $3 billion in funding will be evenly split between those two programs. It marks the largest aggregate amount of funding SAMHSA has distributed to date for its mental health and substance use block grant programs.
“With this funding from the American Rescue Plan and the creation of the Behavioral Health Coordinating Council, I think you could say that President Biden’s words are more than that,” Becerra said. “We’re going to walk that talk. We’re going to do everything we can to prove to folks that we’re serious.”
In announcing the news, Becerra also said HHS was planning to make about $14 million available to various state and local governments as part of its pediatric mental health care access program. That funding will be made available in the coming days through the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), he said.