Mental health programs to receive federal stimulus funds

The Biden administration announced on Thursday how it intends to spend $2.5 billion on mental health and drug addiction services through the American Rescue Plan, which President Joe Biden signed into law on Thursday.

According to the Biden administration, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) will direct $1.65 billion in Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant funding and $825 million in Community Mental Health Services Block Grant funding to states and territories.

The two programs will direct funds to the states.

The Biden administration says that the Community Mental Health Services Block Grant program will allow states to provide comprehensive community mental health services and address needs and gaps in existing treatment services for those with severe mental health conditions.

The administration added that the Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant program will permit states to plan, implement and evaluate activities to prevent and treat substance use disorder.

A CDC study published in February found mental health conditions, suicide attempts, all drug and opioid overdoses, intimate partner violence, and child abuse and neglect were higher in mid-March through October 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic, compared with the same period in 2019.

“We know multiple stressors during the pandemic – isolation, sickness, grief, job loss, food instability and loss of routines – have devastated many Americans and presented unprecedented challenges for behavioral health providers across the nation,” said Acting Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use Tom Coderre. “During this time of increased urgency, we want to assure them that funding is in place to help states and territories provide pathways to prevention, intervention, treatment and recovery services, especially for underserved populations.”

The CDC previously said that there was a “concerning” increase in the number of drug overdoses in the US in from March through May 2020.

The CDC previously estimated that 19,416 Americans died from drug overdoses from January through March 2020, which was up nearly 3,000 deaths. Approximately 81,230 drug overdose deaths occurred in the United States in the 12-months ending in May 2020, the CDC reported. For the year ending in May, there were nearly 10,000 additional drug overdose deaths compared to the previous year.

The CDC said that synthetic opioids, primarily illicitly manufactured fentanyl likely drove the increase. The American Medical Association says that there has been a 37% drop in prescriptions of opioids since 2014.

The Biden administration also confirmed there has been an increase in calls to helplines across the country.