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Federal Legislation Includes Support for Behavioral Health Access

Bipartisan bill addressing gun violence, mental health passed by Congress

June 24, 2022

Congress’s bipartisan deal to address gun violence includes several proposals to bolster access to mental health services, particularly for children and families.

The U.S. House approved the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act today, sending the legislation—which the Senate approved Thursday—to President Joe Biden’s desk for his expected signature.

In addition to several proposals related to firearms and other measures, the bill includes new spending and directives to support access to behavioral health care. Those include:

  • Appropriating new spending to support mental health, including:
    • $60 million over five years for mental health training for primary care clinicians who treat children and youth
    • $80 million over four years to expand pediatric primary care providers’ access to mental health specialists’ expertise
    • $250 million over four years for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) Community Mental Health Block Grant program, which provides flexible funding to states
    • $120 million over four years for training community members and first responders on how to appropriately and safely respond to individuals with mental disorders
    • $240 million over four years for training and awareness related to mental health issues among school-aged youth
    • $40 million over four years for SAMHSA’s National Child Traumatic Stress Network grant to improve trauma-related services for children and families
    • $150 million to support implementation of the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline
  • Supporting access to mental health services by:
    • Expanding the existing Medicaid certified community behavioral health clinic demonstration program nationwide
    • Requiring CMS to provide guidance to states on increasing access to behavioral health telehealth services to Medicaid and CHIP beneficiaries
    • Reauthorizing the Pediatric Mental Health Care Access grant program for five years
    • Requiring CMS to regularly review states’ implementation of the mental health coverage programs for children enrolled in Medicaid
  • Expanding mental health services in schools by requiring CMS to provide tools, guidance, and technical assistance for states to implement, enhance, and expand school-based health programs through Medicaid

“Pennsylvania’s hospital community welcomes new investments in expanding access to behavioral health care as part of the bipartisan, federal legislation addressing gun violence,” HAP President and CEO Andy Carter said. “Pennsylvania is facing a worsening behavioral health crisis and there are not enough services available to meet the need. These proposals—along with investments HAP is advocating for at the state level—will help to expand access to mental health services so Pennsylvanians can get the care they need, when and where they need it.”

For more information, contact John Myers, HAP’s vice president, federal advocacy.