Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Everett, Others Discuss Importance of MH Block Grants at Hill Briefing

Anita Everett, M.D., medical director of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), participated in a Capitol Hill briefing yesterday on the importance of the agency’s Community Mental Health Services Block Grant (MHBG) program.

The MHBG program provides funds and technical assistance to all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and U.S. Pacific to support comprehensive, community mental health services. The program funds are divided among the states and territories based on the estimated at-risk population.

“These block grants are a small but vital part of a state’s health care funding,” said Everett, who is also president of APA. “They provide flexibility for states to implement new, evidence-based strategies that are not covered by insurance.” The grantees have leeway in how they spend the money, although a provision added by Congress in 2015 mandates that 10% of each grant be set aside specifically for early psychosis intervention programs. These programs identify as early as possible people who have experienced their first episode of psychosis and use a comprehensive, team-based approach to prevent or delay the onset of serious mental illness, such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, and reduce relapse episodes.

For the most recent fiscal year, the SAMHSA budget included $533 million for MHBG grants, and thus $53 million set aside for early psychosis programs. Everett and the other speakers at the Capitol Hill briefing, which was hosted by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), discussed multiple studies demonstrating how individuals who have experienced a first episode of psychosis benefit from early psychosis programs. For example, Everett highlighted the Alexandria, Virginia-based program TRAILS (Transitioning Adults Into Living Successfully), which has successfully placed 74% of the program’s clients in jobs or school.

Everett said there is a growing momentum for implementing these early psychosis programs, and she hopes that resources will continue to be available to expand these services.

To read more about early psychosis interventions, see the Psychiatric News articles “Digital Advertising Is Effective Tool for Engaging People on Early Psychosis” and “Psychosocial Treatments Found Effective for Early Psychosis.”

(Sylvia Johnson)


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