Actions include $200 million to scale up 988 suicide and crisis lifeline and new resources for school-based mental health services
This Mental Health Awareness Month, we honor all those experiencing mental health challenges and celebrate the mental health professionals, families, and caregivers who support them. It is clear that our country is facing an unprecedented mental health crisis impacting people of all ages. In 2021, two in five American adults reported experiencing symptoms of anxiety and depression and forty-four percent of high school students reported struggling with persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, social media, and gun violence. The Biden-Harris Administration is firmly committed to addressing this crisis.
As part of his Unity Agenda, President Biden released a comprehensive national strategy to transform how mental health is understood, accessed, treated, and integrated in and out of health care settings. Across the federal government, thanks to the President’s American Rescue Plan (ARP) and Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (BSCA), the Administration has already invested unprecedented levels of funding to expand access to mental health services. The President’s FY24 budget goes further, proposing tens of billions more to transform behavioral health services for all Americans.
Today, which is recognized as Mental Health Day of Action, and throughout Mental Health Awareness Month, the Biden-Harris Administration is announcing additional critical actions to advance the President’s mental health strategy across its three key objectives: strengthening the mental health workforce and system capacity, connecting more Americans to care, and creating a continuum of support.
Strengthen the Mental Health Workforce and System Capacity
Addressing the mental health crisis requires that we confront the severe shortage of mental health professionals and strengthen the capacity of the behavioral health care system. As a result, the Biden-Harris Administration is taking new actions this month to:
Increase the size and diversity of the behavioral health workforce. Thanks to the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (BSCA), the Department of Education (ED) has awarded more than $280 million in funding to bolster the pipeline of mental health professionals serving in schools and expand school-based mental health services and supports. Earlier this week, ED announced $95 million of this total was awarded in grants across 35 states to increase access to school-based mental health services and strengthen the pipeline of mental health professionals in high-needs school districts. Grantees from ED’s mental health programs project that these funds will create more than 14,000 new mental health professionals in U.S. schools – including school psychologists, counselors, social workers. This month, ED also announced new funding for a center that will provide technical assistance to grantees working to address the critical need in prekindergarten-12 schools for school-based mental health service providers. This summer, the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) will announce a new Behavioral Health Workforce Education and Training (BHWET) funding opportunity for approximately $8.4 million to support 16 awards to recruit and train providers to provide behavioral support to children and adolescents.
Expand access to peer support. A peer worker is someone with lived experience with a mental health and/or substance use condition, and who works with other people with similar conditions in a wide range of non-clinical activities including advocacy, navigation and linkage to resources, sharing of experience, social support, and more. In the coming weeks, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) will release the National Model Standards for Peer Support Certification. The new standards are designed to improve consistency across peer certifications and promote quality of the growing number of peer workers across the nation.
Enhance crisis response. To ensure those in crisis have access to services, SAMHSA announced the availability of more than $200 million for states, territories, call centers, and Tribal organizations to continue strengthening 988 operations. Through the SAMHSA supported 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, the network receives approximately 100,000 calls, chats, and texts each week. Later this month, SAMHSA will also announce more than $9 million in awards in cooperative agreements for community crisis response partnerships. This funding will support mobile crisis response teams to ensure adults and youth experiencing mental health crises in high-need communities receive faster access to trained mental health professionals.
Expand proven models of care. To build capacity to meet the mental health needs of Americans, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) awarded 15 one-year state planning grants to help states develop the necessary capacity to compete to participate in the Certified Community Behavioral Health Center (CCBHC) Medicaid Demonstration. CCBHCs provide 24/7, comprehensive behavioral health care – including crisis care – to the most vulnerable Americans regardless of their ability to pay. Thanks to BSCA, we are working to expand these clinics and help more states enter the program.
Connect More Americans to Care
Even when services are available, barriers like cost, cultural bias, and inconvenience often prevent people from accessing the care they need. On average, it takes 11 years after the onset of mental health symptoms for someone to seek treatment. To help remove these barriers, the Biden-Harris Administration is taking new actions to:
Make it easier to find help. It is simply too hard to know where to start when you or a loved one experiences a mental health challenge. That’s why HHS launched FindSupport.Gov, a brand-new, easy-to-access, free-of-charge, and user-friendly online resource for all Americans to learn how to get support for mental health, drug, and alcohol issues.
Provide mental health services in schools. To help address student mental health needs, today, CMS released an updated Medicaid School Claiming and Administrative Guide and ED released a proposed rule that would revise processes on Medicaid billing under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, both of which are intended to make it easier for schools to provide health services to students with Medicaid. In addition, the Department of the Interior’s (DOI) Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) initiated a Behavioral Health and Wellness Program to provide indigenous focused, evidence-based, and trauma-informed behavioral health and wellness services and resources, including an expanded tele-behavioral health BIE specific 24/7 crisis hotline, to students and staff at all BIE-funded schools, colleges, universities, dormitories, and programs.
Support mental health of workers. Work related stress and burnout can lead to mental health challenges for America’s working families. To help address workplace mental health, earlier this month, the Department of Labor (DOL) launched a Mental Health at Work Initiative to promote key resources in support employees and employers. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) also rolled out the Workplace Stress Toolkit to provide guidance and tips for employers, training resources, and outreach materials to reduce stress and burnout among workers.
Reduce stigma for service members and veterans. Service members and veterans are at increased risk for mental health challenges. Earlier this month, the Department of Defense (DoD) issued a new policy that makes it easier for Service members to seek support by self-initiating a referral for a mental health evaluation through a commanding officer or supervisor. This policy, based on the Brandon Act, allows Service members to seek confidential help, reducing stigma associated with mental health issues. This month, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is also leveraging its Today I Am Campaign, to showcase veterans’ stories of getting help to inspire other veterans to proactively seek support and resources.
Deliver mental health services to caregivers. To help address the stress of family caregiving, this month, VA launched a pilot program to provide mental health services to caregivers enrolled in the Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers. This new program will address the unique mental health needs of veteran caregivers by providing evidence-based services centered around couples, family therapy, and the individual needs of the caregiver.
Reduce disparities in maternal mental health. Too often, postpartum depression and anxiety go undiagnosed. This month, HRSA will announce awards for more than $65 million to 25 HRSA-funded health centers to implement innovative approaches to improve maternal health outcomes and reduce disparities for women from underserved backgrounds by supporting health centers to partner with patients and the community to develop and pilot innovative, patient-centered, scalable models of care delivery that address the clinical and health-related social needs of health center patients at highest risk of maternal morbidity and mortality. HRSA also just marked the one-year anniversary of the maternal mental health hotline. The 24/7 hotline, 1-833-TLC-MAMA, provides support before, during and after pregnancy and is currently staffed by more than three dozen call-takers, including nurses, doulas, and lactation consultants. During the first year, the hotline received more than 12,000 calls and texts.
Promote behavioral health equity. Earlier this month, SAMHSA launched a Behavioral Health Equity Challenge which will provide up to ten awards to community-based organizations for innovative outreach and engagement strategies that help members of underserved racial and ethnic communities engage in culturally and linguistically responsive services across the continuum of care for behavioral health, including mental health promotion, substance misuse prevention, and treatments and supports that foster recovery.
Create Healthy and Supportive Environments
In addition to investments in the health care system, we must also build environments that promote wellness and recovery and prevent mental health challenges from occurring in the first place. This month, the Biden-Harris Administration is taking new actions to:
Improve youth resilience. Unlike ever before, our kids are facing the consequences of multiple crises at once, from COVID-19 to gun violence among other key issues. HHS announced the new Children and Youth Resilience Prize Challenge, which will award $1 million to innovative community-led solutions to promote resilience in children and adolescents affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and other disasters.
Promote the importance of social connection. Social isolation and loneliness are far too common. People from all walks of life have been forced to grapple with increase social isolation and loneliness, especially due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Earlier this month, the U.S. Surgeon General released a new Advisory on Addressing Loneliness and Promoting Social Connection. And, CDC also launched a new website for adults, which provides key suggestions on how to combat loneliness by improving social connectedness.
Invest in early childhood mental health. Like with physical health, it is important for us to start taking care of the mental health of our children as early in their lives as possible. Later this month, SAMHSA will award $9.7 million in grants through the infant and early childhood mental health program to improve outcomes for children from birth up to 12 years of age via improved interventions and treatment services.
Improve suicide prevention efforts. Beyond scaling up 988, the Administration is also taking additional actions to better prevent suicide. The Indian Health Service (IHS) will implement a system-wide suicide prevention training for all staff to increase recognition and response to suicide within American Indian and Alaska Native populations. Later this month, SAMHSA will award $6 million in suicide prevention grants across multiple programs to support states and tribes with implementing youth suicide prevention and early intervention strategies in schools, institutions of higher education, juvenile justice systems, substance use and mental health programs, foster care systems, and other child and youth-serving organizations.
Launch public call-to-action to support research. This month, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy called on non-profit organizations, advocacy groups, academic institutions, companies, and other research funders to share their actions and collaborations to help advance national mental health research priorities. This builds on the first-of-its-kind White House Report on Mental Health Research Priorities, which outlined a set of critical and timely needs and opportunities in mental health research.
Improve employee wellness. Americans spend much of their lives working, so it is critical that we foster healthy mental health practices even at work. Later this month, the Administration’s Office of Personnel Management (OPM) will release an Employee Wellness Program Guidance for agencies on best practices for providing wellness services to federal employees. The Administration also launched an interagency Mental Health and Well-being Community of Practice to continue to identify best practices and develop a government-wide toolkit for agencies containing metrics, data, insights, and options for agencies to use to understand and promote employee well-being and mental health.
Expand access to recovery. Treatment works and recovery is possible, and the Administration is committed to supporting all living in recovery. In the coming weeks, SAMHSA will announce $5.4 million in grant awards for building communities of recovery to support mobilization and connection of community-based resources to increase access to and quality of long-term recovery support for people with substance use disorders and co-occurring substance use and mental health disorders.