2023 Budget Includes Significant Investments in Behavioral Health Care

On March 28th, the Biden-Harris Administration submitted its presidential budget proposal for the 2023 fiscal year. While this action is just the first step in the lengthy budgetary process, it offers an interesting insight into the White House’s spending and policy priorities moving towards the latter half of 2022 and into 2023.

The Administration’s priorities include a wide range of investments designed to spur economic growth, support pandemic recovery, unclog the supply chain, create jobs, and reduce the federal deficit. According to President Biden’s remarks following the budget’s release, he believes that it sends a “clear message that we value fiscal responsibility, safety and security at home and around the world, and the investments needed to continue our equitable growth and build a better America.”

While these priorities are ambitious, the President intends to fund them, while decreasing the national deficit, with a proposal he’s calling the Billionaire Minimum Income Tax – a 20% tax on households with over $100 million in income per year.

Why a Significant Mental Health Investment is Necessary 

There is excitement around the 2023 budgetary proposal, particularly among those working within the behavioral health, mental health, and substance use communities. Many of these priorities are designed to directly and indirectly improve access, funding, and outcomes for behavioral health care across the United States. 

This funding is critically important and sorely needed if we want to start chipping away at the vast demand for mental healthcare services that has skyrocketed since the beginning of the COVID pandemic. There have been significant increases in symptoms of anxiety, depression, stress, and insomnia during the last two years, along with a corresponding rise in substance use disorders. There’s also been a rise in mental health-related emergencies such as suicide attempts among young people. One May 2020 survey found a 31% increase in emergency room visits for attempted suicide among adolescents aged 12-17 alone. 

Specific Budgetary Initiatives to Help Improve Mental Health

The impacts of the pandemic on every aspect of life from mental health, to economic factors like job outlook and inflation – are undeniable. With this budget, hundreds of billions of dollars are being dedicated to correcting some of these imbalances.

While improving health and economic outcomes will have a positive effect on mental health in general, several specific initiatives have been proposed that will impact mental and behavioral health directly. Here are some of the most ground-breaking initiatives within the 2023 fiscal year budget: 

Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H)

Just this year, the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H) was established. ARPA-H is a biomedical enterprise designed to help “revolutionize how to prevent, treat, and even cure a range of diseases including cancer, infectious diseases, Alzheimer’s disease, and many others that together affect a significant number of Americans.”

ARPA-H is an initiative overseen by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the 2023 fiscal year budget proposes to increase its funding to $5 billion. By creating a dedicated project designed to advance the latest science from “molecular to societal”, the current administration hopes to help provide transformative physical and mental health solutions for patients in all walks of life. 

An Expansion of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

The 2023 budgetary proposal suggests that the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) should receive $4.6 billion more in funding than in 2022. This money will be used to address the increased need for mental health services across the county. One initiative set to receive expanded funding in 2023 is the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. With additional funding, the system can be improved, and access will be expanded to include more individuals suffering from suicidal ideation or suicidality. 

Support Services for Addressing the Opioid Crisis

Another SAMHSA initiative set to benefit from increased funding in 2023 is a network of projects designed to expand access to care for individuals suffering from opioid use disorders (OUD). This includes continued financial investment into FDA-approved medications designed to treat this condition in conjunction with psychosocial and community support. This project is also designed to help facilitate treatments for individuals with OUD and bolster investment in overdose antidotes like naloxone.

Increased Funding for Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics (CCBHCs)

In 2015, SAMHSA created a model for a new community initiative called Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics (CCBHCs). These clinics were designed to help the more than 14 million American adults who have a severe mental illness, by increasing access to care and creating a clinical model designed to facilitate coordination between mental health clinicians, doctors, and social support workers. Since 2015, this program has expanded through government grants, and increased funding in 2023 will help create even more CCBHCs to better support local communities.

Project LAUNCH

Another major initiative that’s set to see increased funding in 2023 is Linking Actions for Unmet Needs in Children’s Health (Project LAUNCH). This program is designed to promote positive mental health in children and young adults by conducting early screenings for behavioral health concerns. In 2021 alone, more than 254,000 children were screened, and this proposed funding increase will help bring the program to 30 more communities.

The Impact of the 2023 Fiscal Year Budget on Mental Health

With the budget being so expansive, it’s hard to address every single initiative here. Apart from the programs outlined above, there are other programs that will help increase access to care, expand the social safety net, and allow for increased screenings for those that are most vulnerable.

In addition to specific behavioral and mental health initiatives, many aspects of the budget will help tackle the root causes of income-based mental health disparities, such as access to safe and secure housing, affordable childcare, high healthcare costs, and more.

You can read the budget proposal in full, or read about specific mental health, behavioral health and substance use initiatives from these resources: 

Health and Human Services Secretary Becerra

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

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