WASHINGTON DC – At a Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) hearing on Wednesday, United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) highlighted the importance of mental health funding at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).
Senator Warren called for an additional $1 billion in mental health funding which would roughly double SAMHSA’s two biggest mental health grant programs, the Mental Health Services Block Grant (MHBG) and the Programs of Regional and National Significance (PRNS). Doubling the funding for these mental health programs would save lives and provide millions of Americans, including many struggling with opioid addiction, with the services they need.
“There is such a very high rate of co-occurring mental disorders with substance use disorders and the genesis of these mental disorders often predate the substance use disorder itself,” said Dr. McCance-Katz.
MHBG and PRNS provide funds to all fifty states, and support the work of state mental health agencies, local governments, and nonprofits. But due to funding limitations, nearly 12 million Americans have unmet needs for mental health services, according to Dr. McCance-Katz.
Senator Warren noted that while MHBG and PRNS currently receive less than $1 billion a year, a recent report by the White House Council of Economic Advisors estimated the cost of combatting the opioid crisis to be roughly $500 billion.
“The cost to this country for the opioid crisis is more than half a trillion dollars – in 2015 alone – that’s where we have the most recent data. And we are investing only one fifth of one percent of that amount in helping SAMHSA tackle the mental health piece of this problem. I think we need to do more,” said Senator Warren, in a media statement. “That’s why I’ve called for an additional billion dollars of funding in next year’s budget that would…let (SAMHSA) double what they put into the two largest mental health programs.”
During the hearing, Senator Warren cited letters she has received from the National Council for Behavioral Health and the Association for Behavioral Healthcare expressing strong support for the senator’s call for additional investments in mental health programs.