The “Bipartisan Safer Communities Act” and What it Means to Mental Health Access

Communities across the country are severely underserved when it comes to accessing mental health services. There is such a significant need for mental health and substance use treatment, yet access remains a prevailing issue. 

The impact from not receiving mental health care is well known and documented. On May 31st, The National Council released a study that demonstrated the debilitating effect barriers have on access to mental health services. Unaddressed mental health problems can have a negative influence on homelessness, poverty, employment, safety, and the local economy. They may impact the productivity of local businesses and substantially increase health care costs, impede the ability of children and youth to succeed in school, and lead to family and community disruption. 

The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act provides the greatest opportunity in decades to remove the barriers that can make it so challenging for individuals to access critically needed care, preventing patients in need who might otherwise slip through the cracks.

This new legislation, signed into law on June 25, 2022, provides Medicaid funding to increase access to comprehensive mental health and substance use services, particularly through increased funding designated for Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics (CCBHCs). Integrated with primary care and coordinated with other social service providers, CCBHCs can reduce wait times and expand capacity to address the overdose epidemic. Additionally, CCBHCs form groundbreaking partnerships with hospitals, schools, and law enforcement to advance care, reduce recidivism, and prevent inpatient hospital readmissions.

The bill also comprises funding to extend access to telehealth services under Medicaid and CHIP, and includes best practices to support services delivered in schools, as well as school intervention programs such as Mental Health First Aid (MHFA). It also delivers additional funding for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline ahead of the 988 July 16th implementation date, increasing the capacity of our crisis intervention system.

The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act includes a number of provisions outside of Medicaid and CHIP that provide additional funding for school-based and pediatric-focused programs. $500 million will be dedicated to the School Based Mental Health Services Grant Program to increase the number of qualified mental health service providers and $500 million to the School Based Mental Health Service Professionals Demonstration Grant. An additional $60 million in funding will be provided for primary care training and enhancement, and $80 million to support the pediatric mental health care access program.

There is no health without mental health. The effects of our mental health are connected to our moods, physical health, and social connections. It helps us cope better with adversity and unexpected hurdles, which all contribute to our sense of wellbeing and our mental health. By taking a proactive stance of improving, maintaining, and nurturing our mental health, we can ensure that we live healthy, productive, and meaningful lives. The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act will attempt to remove barriers to access so people can live healthier lives. 

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