Editor’s Note: The Association of Behavioral Health (ABH) issued the following statement upon release of the Senate Ways & Means Committee’s FY2022 budget. SOURCE is publishing it as a letter to the editor.
NATICK – The spending plan released by the Senate Ways & Means Committee proposes significant additional funding for services and programs for individuals with mental health and substance use conditions and reflects a marked commitment by the Senate to advancing access to critical behavioral health services.
Association of Behavioral Health, which represents 80 community-based providers across the Commonwealth, applauds these important investments by the Senate during this extraordinary year.
The spending plan reflects a great deal of thoughtful deliberation by Senate Ways & Means Committee Chair Michael Rodrigues and Senate President Karen Spilka, who have long championed programs that benefit individuals with mental health and substance use disorders.
Later this week, the state will release public health data on fatal opioid overdoses, and despite progress in recent years, we expect those numbers to increase – partly because of circumstances caused by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
ABH applauds the Senate’s continued focus on the equity and public health impacts of the opioid overdose crisis by focusing funding on prevention, treatment, harm reduction and recovery services, and investing in diverting individuals away from the criminal justice system. The budget includes funds to expand low-threshold housing for individuals with substance use disorders, expand jail diversion initiatives, increase access to medications for addiction treatment, create five new recovery centers, expand family supportive housing programs, and fund naloxone distribution programs.
The Senate budget plan also recognizes the strain COVID-19 has placed on available mental health services for children and young people. It funds the Children’s Behavioral Health Initiative and recapitalizes the Behavioral Health, Access, Outreach and Support Trust Fund to provide tele-behavioral health services to students. ABH is extremely pleased to see funding to establish a pilot program to provide the Program of Assertive Community Treatment (PACT) for youth and young adults in the budget, which would ensure intensive, comprehensive and non-residential treatment individualized for youth. The comprehensive budget additionally allocates funding to support the Children’s Behavioral Health Council in their work to analyze the impacts of the pandemic on the behavioral health continuum of care for children.
The proposed budget expands access to safe and stable housing for individuals who receive services from the Department of Mental Health by increasing the investment in rental subsidies and approves funds to make outpatient, urgent, and crisis care for behavioral health concerns accessible to individuals and families that need them.
Finally, the Senate Ways & Means budget reflects a commitment to supporting the behavioral health workforce. It funds recruitment efforts at educational institutions to encourage students to enter into the addiction treatment field, creates funding streams to enhance the mental health workforce pipeline, and funds loan forgiveness efforts for mental health clinicians.
Demand for behavioral health services has risen during the COVID-19 pandemic, and requires a well-resourced behavioral health system to address these urgent needs. As the primary providers of publicly-funded behavioral healthcare in the Commonwealth, ABH members look forward to working with the Senate, the House and Governor Baker to solidify these gains to ensure the Commonwealth meets its commitment to individuals and families with behavioral health conditions.
The Association for Behavioral Healthcare (ABH) has been the leading advocacy organization in Massachusetts’ mental health and addiction services arena. Fighting for high-quality, community-based care for families and individuals with mental illness, addiction and substance-use disorders, It is located in Natick.