US to start paying for mental health aspects of COVID

Group therapy stock photo.
Photo credit Getty Images
By , 1080 KRLD

Services at 231 community health centers across the country will soon get an infusion of federal cash to bolster programs as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact the nation.

A Tuesday press release from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, explained that $825 million in funding was pledged toward the centers this March. Funding for this Community Mental Health Services Block Grant program comes from the Consolidated Appropriations Act and the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplement Act, both passed this year.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted many aspects of Americans’ lives – these disruptions are especially difficult for people battling mental health disorders,” said U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra. “Thanks to the CAA and CRRS Acts, we’re investing record-breaking funding in community mental health centers, which are often on the frontlines serving our most vulnerable communities.”

Recipients of the funds are community-based facilities that provide prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation mental health services. In providing grant program funds, SAMHSA aims to help these centers “more effectively address the needs of individuals” who have conditions such as serious emotional disturbance, serious mental illness and related substance use disorders.

U.S.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data
from August 2020 through this February showed an increase in the number of adults with recent symptoms of an anxiety or a depressive disorder from 36.4 percent to 41.5 percent.
Additionally, the percentage of those reporting an unmet mental health care need increased from 9.2 percent to 11.7 percent.

“Every American deserves access to behavioral health services in the communities where they live, and we recognize the urgent need to bolster those services for minority populations and those living in economically disadvantaged communities,” said SAMHSA leader Miriam E.
Delphin-Rittmon, Ph.D., the U.S. HHS Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use.

Each of the 231 grant recipient centers are required to develop a behavioral health disparities impact statement within 60 days of receiving grant awards. Recipients must also develop a quality-improvement plan to address under-resourced populations’ differences and identify plans for adherence to the National Standards for Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services in Health and Health Care.

Services offered at the centers must include: audio and audio-visual, HIPAA-compliant telehealth; outpatient services; trauma-informed screening, assessment, diagnosis and patient-centered treatment planning and treatment delivery; clinical and recovery support services and resources for the mental health needs of staff.

Allowable services under the grant include: training for behavioral health professionals to work with schools, providing staff training on behavioral health disparities, expanding capacity and availability of crisis beds, expanding mobile crisis mental health services for target populations, developing and implementing outreach strategies and referral pathways and training about mental health needs that have arisen during the pandemic.

Overall, the Biden-Harris administration has allocated approximately $2.5 billion in federal funding for states and territories to address mental health. Apart from the grants for community-based mental health centers, another $1.65 billion will go towards substance abuse prevention and treatment grants.

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