Monday, March 14, 2022

APA Highlights Mental Health Investments in $1.5 Trillion Spending Package

Late last week, Congress passed a $1.5 trillion omnibus spending package that will fund the government through the end of the fiscal year and provide aid to Ukraine. APA expressed support for several mental health and telehealth investments included in the package and urged additional funding to address the mental health and substance use crises in this country.

“Congress’s continued investment in mental health remains essential as we navigate our emergence from COVID,” APA President Vivian Pender, M.D., said in a media release. “This summer, as we implement the national 988 hotline for mental health, these funds will be a critical piece of a larger puzzle.”

The Omnibus Appropriations for fiscal year 2022 (HR 2471) package includes critical funding for mental health programs and extends telehealth flexibilities implemented during the pandemic. Those flexibilities include waiving geographic site-of-service requirements, allowing audio-only telehealth services for Medicare beneficiaries, and delaying the requirement that Medicare patients have an in-person evaluation within six months of their first mental telehealth visit.

“Telehealth access to mental health services during the pandemic has been a lifeline that made it easier for patients to keep appointments and get the psychiatric care they need,” APA CEO and Medical Director Saul Levin, M.D., M.P.A., said in the release. “That experience shows how important it is to continue telehealth access for patients not only this year, but permanently.”

Additional APA-supported provisions in the package include the following:

  • $45 billion to the National Institutes of Health (NIH)—an increase of $2.25 billion over last fiscal year.
  • $6.5 billion to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)—a $530 million increase over last fiscal year; $2 billion of these funds will be directed to mental health programs—an increase of $288 million over last year.
  • $17 million to the SAMHSA Minority Fellowship Program to promote and train behavioral health care professionals on how to provide culturally competent care.
  • $24 million to the Loan Repayment Program for Substance Use Disorder (SUD) Treatment Workforce to provide as much as $250,000 in loan repayments to psychiatrists and other SUD professionals who agree to work full-time in a health professional shortage area or county with high overdose rates for up to six years.
  • $25 million to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and NIH to support research to identify the most effective ways to prevent firearm-related injuries and deaths and to broaden firearm injury data collection.
  • $5 million to the Employee Benefits Security Administration, which is responsible for enforcing compliance with the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act for 2.2 million employer-sponsored health plans.
  • Enhanced Medicaid funding for Puerto Rico and other U.S. territories extended through December 13, 2022.

The final funding package, however, resulted in far fewer resources for mental health services and programs than were initially included in the House’s original proposal, APA noted. “Those initial proposals were more in keeping with the gravity of the mental health and substance use crisis our nation is experiencing,” the APA release stated. “We look forward to working with the Appropriations Committees and others in Congress to devote more significant resources to the mental health and substance use needs in fiscal year 2023 and beyond.”

For related information, see the Psychiatric News article “Congress Passes Parity, Increases Some MH Funding.”

(Image: iStock/uschools)

Registration for MindGames Closes March 16

MindGames, APA’s national residency team competition, is a fun way for residents to test their knowledge on patient care, medical knowledge, and psychiatric history while earning bragging rights for their program. Teams are composed of three residents and must complete the qualifying exam in one, 60-minute setting. Only one team per institution may compete. 2022 MindGames will be held virtually during APA’s Annual Meeting Online Experience. Registration closes Wednesday, March 16, at 11:59 p.m. ET.



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