Millions Of Americans May Soon Have 24/7 Access To Mental Health Care

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced on October 18 that it will open up $15 million in funding for states to develop more Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics (CCBHCs) to meet mental health needs across the country. These crisis centers provide 24-hour help for people, even if they can't afford to pay. The funds were authorized as a part of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which was a gun violence bill responding to the mass shootings in Uvalde, Texas, and Buffalo, New York. This bill earmarked $1 billion for mental health (via Sandy Hook Promise).

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), 15 states can apply for a $1 million grant to help expand the CCBHCs and improve mental health access. This one-year grant helps these states prepare for the CCBHC demonstration program, which is a four-year process (via HHS). Ten of these states will be chosen for the demonstration program, with the hope of eventually folding all 50 states into the program.

"Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics are transforming behavioral health systems one community at a time," Dr. Miriam Delphin-Rittmon,  HHS Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use and the leader of SAMHSA, said in the HHS announcement.

Improving mental health in the US

According to the Associated Press, there are currently 400 behavioral health clinics in 46 states in the U.S. that offer 24-hour care for anyone, even if they don't have insurance or can't pay. In the past, local governments and nonprofits ran these clinics and had little funding from the federal government. The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act and President Biden's COVID-19 relief plan bolstered financial support for the centers. These clinics help people avoid the long waiting lists from costly, private mental health centers.

The CCBHCs must meet federal guidelines for health care, and they must provide outpatient care for people no less than 10 days after their initial visit to the center (via HHS). Although President Biden included the mental health crisis as part of his Unity Agenda (via the White House), the need to improve resources for mental health began in 2014 with the Excellence in Mental Health and Addiction Treatment Act. This established the 24-hour CCBHCs, which are reimbursed through Medicaid (via HHS).

Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said that this additional funding for CCBHCs will help many people in the United States address their mental health. "Behavioral health is health. Period. There should be no distinction. This investment will bring us closer to that reality," Becerra said in a news release.