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Congress Increases Mental Health Funding in Some Areas

The passage of the 2014 omnibus budget bill represents the first time since 2012 that Congress has been able to reach agreement on the annual budget. The 2014 budget agreement (HR 3547), passed last month, was supported in the House and Senate by both Democrats and Republicans. After several years of budget cuts, the budget bill restored funding in some areas and prevented major cuts in others. Below are some highlights from the budget bill related to mental health.

Mental Illness Research Funding

The budget bill stops any more cuts to funding at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). For 2014, NIMH has a budget of about $1.45 billion – which is still $34 million below 2013 levels. However, the final bill includes full funding for President Barack Obama’s Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative which is intended to speed the development of new technologies to help further the understanding of the brain's structure and function.

SAMHSA Funding Increased

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) will receive a $144 million increase over 2013 levels, for a total budget of $3.6 billion.

Highlights of the SAMHSA Budget:

  • $484 million for the Mental Health Block Grant, a $24 million increase over 2013. The Mental Health Block Grant is dedicated to building and supporting the community-based public mental health system across the country. The bill also sets aside a new 5 percent that would require states to direct funding to support evidence-based programs that meet the needs of individuals with early serious mental illness.
  • $15 million for a new grant program to provide Mental Health First Aid training to police officers, first responders, judges, social workers and the staff of college and university counseling centers, among others,
  • $50 million for the Primary-Behavioral Health Care Integration (PBHCI) program, which supports the integration of mental health care in primary care settings,
  • $40 million for new Project AWARE grants, which will provide 20 grants to State Education Authorities for programs in 1,000-1,500 schools to get students with mental health challenges referred to needed services,
  • $46 million for the National Child Traumatic Stress Initiative which improves treatment and services for children and adolescents who have experienced traumatic events and increases access to these treatments and services, and
  • $48 million for the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act programs which enable states, Indian tribes, colleges and universities to develop suicide prevention and intervention programs.

Supportive Housing

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Section 811 Project-Based Rental Assistance (PRA) program will be funded at $126 million which is $40 million below 2013 levels. The PRA program supports the lowest income people with long-term disabilities to live independently in the community. It provides affordable housing linked with voluntary services and supports. Unfortunately, as much as $109 million will be needed to renew expiring PRA contracts, leaving only $17 million for development of new rental units in 2014.

Funding for the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act programs, which provides federal money for homeless shelter programs, will be just over $2 billion – with over $1.8 billion for the 2014 Continuum of Care (CoC) competition. The CoC is a set of three competitively-awarded programs created to address the problems of homelessness in a comprehensive manner. While this funding is $80 million above 2013 levels, it falls short of the $200 million increase the President requested for 2014. The increase will not be enough to keep pace with increase in funds needed for existing permanent supportive housing programs such as Shelter Plus Care. The Shelter Plus Care program is especially important as it provides rental assistance that, when combined with social services, provides supportive housing for homeless people living with disabilities and their families.

Find out more budget information on 2014 for housing programs.

Veterans Mental Health Funding Increased

The Veterans Health Administration (VHA) was not affected by the automatic cuts in 2013. The VHA budget operates on a two-year budget cycle meaning that this budget bill applies to 2015 funding.

  • Veterans Mental Health Care received a large boost in funding including a full 2015 advance request of over $7.7 billion for mental health care in the VA and a $20 million increase for specific suicide prevention activities. This is a $506 million increase in funding from 2014.
  • Veterans Homelessness Activities will receive $1 billion through 2015 for activities to address homelessness among veterans. This is in addition to the over $5.2 billion currently available to the VA in 2014 for a range of programs including the Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (VASH) and VA domiciliary programs. VA Home Domiciliary care provides inpatient medical care and physical, social and psychological support services in a therapeutic environment.
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