Mental health isn’t just important on an individual level—it’s an essential element for strong communities. Unaddressed mental health needs are associated with increased rates of poverty, crime, and homelessness and can have a negative impact on local economies. They may also impact local health care costs, impede children’s ability to succeed in school, and cause disruptions in the home and the community overall.
According to recent data compiled by Mental Health America, a nonprofit organization that seeks to raise awareness of mental health resources in local communities, over half of adults with mental illness never receive treatment. Among adolescents living with depression, 60 percent don’t receive treatment. Of those that do receive treatment, only about one in four receive consistent care. To address this, there are several initiatives that seek to expand community-based mental health services.
Senate Bill and Other Mental Health Funding from Congress?
Significantly increased government funding suggests mental health has become more of a priority. The Department of Health and Human Services has announced a $15 million grant to fund behavioral health services in nursing homes and has allocated another $300 million to mental health services with the goal of closing the treatment gap. Meanwhile, events in the news have also inspired more talk around improving access to mental health care….
Mental Health, Mental Illness Revisited in Context of Gun Violence
Concerns about how to address mental illness and the need for mental healthcare have emerged in conversations about gun violence in this country. (Bear in mind there is no clear link between violence and mental illness, according to the American Psychological Association.) For instance, members of the Senate have called for more community mental health clinics that can triage crises 24/7 and provide more mental health and substance abuse treatment.
Mental Health Care Initiatives
They may have a point: There are numerous reasons for the lack of accessible care, from inadequate health insurance coverage to a severe shortage of mental health care providers. In response to this, there’s been increased interest in expanding funding for mental health clinics, making care more accessible to more people.
Currently, there are several initiatives that would make it easier for children and adults to get affordable mental health care services with minimal wait times.
Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics Grant Programs
In March, the Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, announced two grants that would increase access to substance use and mental health services for Americans. These grants provide funding for screening services, case management and mobile crisis services for underserved communities through Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics, or CCBHCs.
CCBHCs provide a full range of mental health services, including help with serious mental illnesses, substance use disorders, treatment for children and adolescents with serious emotional disturbances, and those experiencing co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders. SAMHSA encourages communities to focus their efforts on the population they’re serving and the most common issues they see.
Combined, the grants provide more than $300 million in funding opportunities.
Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic – Planning, Development and Implementation grants provide funding to enable vulnerable communities to establish new nonprofit behavioral health clinics. These grants are available to treatment providers in every state.
Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic – Improvement and Advancement grants are available to help communities enhance the services they already provide through CCBHCs. This may include implementing 24/7 crisis services and making care available to everyone who needs it, regardless of where they live or their ability to pay.
Center of Excellence for Building Capacity in Nursing Facilities to Care for Residents with Behavioral Health Conditions
Older adults in long-term care communities are at an increased risk of mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. Research also indicates a high rate of prescription drug, alcohol, and illicit drug misuse among nursing home residents.
Unfortunately, the staff in long-term care facilities aren’t trained to serve residents living with mental illnesses or substance use disorders. According to one study, about half of nursing homes don’t have access to adequate psychiatric consultations. As a result, those living in long-term care facilities are consistently underserved when it comes to mental health services. In some cases, lack of access to care can lead to issues such as substandard care and inappropriate use of physical or chemical restraints.
In May, the Department of Health and Human Services announced funding for a three-year federal grant to establish a SAMHSA program to promote access to mental health services for residents in long-term care facilities. This $15 million grant is funded by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and will put into place a Center of Excellence for Building Capacity in Nursing Facilities to Care for Residents with Behavioral Health Conditions, simply called a Center for Excellence.
The purpose of the Center for Excellence is to provide more training for staff in long-term care communities on mental health issues, helping them learn to recognize signs of mental illnesses and substance abuse.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a helpline that provides free and confidential support for people experiencing a mental health crisis. It’s available 24 hours per day, seven days per week, and is staffed by a nationwide network of over 200 local crisis centers.
To contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, individuals can call (800) 273-8255, or they can call or text 988. When they call, they’re automatically connected to trained counselors who provide a listening ear, emotional support and information and referrals for community-based services that can help meet their needs.
Studies have shown that after speaking with a Lifeline counselor, callers experience fewer symptoms of depression, are less likely to commit suicide, are less overwhelmed, and more optimistic about their future.
Bipartisan Safer Communities Act
The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act was a bill put together by a bipartisan group of 20 senators. This senate bill for mental health funding provides $750 million to help states implement and operate crisis intervention programs and $250 million to fund community-based violent intervention programs. It also provides resources to help states expand the community mental health services for families and children. This includes funding mental health initiatives in public schools, implementing or expanding access to mental health telehealth services and investing in crisis intervention programs in the community.
How Does the Federal Government Support Mental Health?
The federal government targets several areas to support mental health. Through these initiatives, the government addresses homelessness, provides funding for services and supports outreach activities.
According to a 2015 study, nearly half of people without housing have a mental illness and about one in four were seriously mentally ill. By comparison, another study found that across all U.S. adults, about 4 percent had a serious mental illness. Affective disorders, in particular, such as depression, schizophrenia and substance use disorders, are reported at much higher rates in people who are unhoused versus the general public.
The connection between mental illness and homelessness is complicated, but in many cases, it’s important to address both issues. The Department of Health and Human Services has several programs in place, such as the Community Services Block Grant. This program provides funding for community action agencies to offer affordable housing, bill assistance and mental health services, among other services.
Federal funding for mental health research makes it possible for agencies to study causes and treatments for mental illnesses. Government agencies such as the National Institute of Mental Health and the SAMHSA lead research efforts, provide grants to community-based mental health clinics and organize public education programs to raise awareness of mental illnesses and treatment options.
For many agencies that provide mental health services, including the Department of Veterans Affairs, Medicare and Medicaid, the federal government is a major funding stream. In fact, Medicaid is the single largest funder of mental health services. The government also provides Mental Health Block Grants to help states create more robust community-based services.
The federal government plays a key role in ensuring the rights and safety of Americans living with mental illnesses. It puts regulations and rules in place that apply to schools, workplaces, health insurance providers and mental health care providers. Through pieces of legislation such as the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Rehabilitation Act, the Affordable Care Act, the Addiction Equity Act and the Mental Health Parity Act, it outlaws discrimination related to mental illnesses and ensures access to health services.
The Importance of Supporting Mental Health Care
While mental illnesses are often less visible than physical illnesses, they can have just as profound an impact on the individual’s quality of life. Mental health services are often out-of-reach for those with limited incomes. In many communities, particularly in rural areas of the country, there are simply no mental health care options available regardless of a person’s resources. Federal initiatives promote access to necessary services for all individuals regardless of where they live, whether they have health insurance and whether they’re able to pay for services.