APA Applauds Congress for Taking Action to Strengthen Mental Health Parity; Including Key Mental Health Programs in Year-End Funding Package

WASHINGTON, D.C., Dec. 22, 2020 – The American Psychiatric Association (APA) today lauded Congress for passing the Strengthening Behavioral Health Parity Act (H.R. 7539) and including several key mental health and substance use-related programs in its combined $1.4 trillion year-end appropriations and COVID-relief funding package.

H.R. 7539 gives the Department of Labor new powers to regulate and audit health plans to determine if they are in compliance with the 2008 Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act. The new legislation was introduced by Reps. Joe Kennedy (D-MA), Katie Porter (D-CA), Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), and Fred Upton (R-MI), as part of the overall year-end funding package, and was the product of negotiations between the House and Senate related to the bipartisan Mental Health Parity Compliance Act, introduced last year by Sens. Chris Murphy (D-CT) and Bill Cassidy, M.D., (R-LA) and by Reps. Porter and Bilirakis.

“This is tremendously good news for the millions of Americans with mental health and substance use disorders,” said APA President Jeffrey Geller, M.D., M.P.H. “Twelve years after mental health parity became the law of the land, the Strengthening Behavioral Health Parity Act will give the government important tools to stop health plans from discriminating against people with mental illness. APA expresses its gratitude to the bipartisan group of lawmakers who, with the support of many advocates, ensured this act became law.”

“Passage of the Strengthening Behavioral Health Parity Act paired with this year-end funding package are essential in our efforts as we continue to face a mental health crisis in this country,” said APA CEO and Medical Director Saul Levin, M.D., M.P.A. “This Act is a good example of how Congress can work in a bipartisan manner to keep Americans’ mental health needs on their radars and invest in programs that help us navigate the pandemic.”

The year-end funding package and stimulus also contains support for other mental health and substance use-related programs and initiatives. Among the many highlights are:

  • A total of $6 billion for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) in annual appropriations, an increase of $133 million over FY 2020 funding, and an additional one-time $4.25 billion in funding for SAMSHA as part of the COVID-relief package. The year-end package also includes $600 million in new COVID-relief funds for Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics (CCHBC) and extends the CCBHC demonstration program by three years. Also included in the package is a new program that sets aside $35 million for crisis care and coordination within the Mental Health Block Grant, and $16.2 million in funding for the Minority Fellowship Program.
  • An increase of funding (to $16 million) for the Substance Use Disorder Treatment Workforce Program, a loan repayment program, through the Health Resources and Services Administration. Across the funding packages, approximately $4 billion is appropriated for fighting the opioid epidemic, and increase of $85 million.
  • Level funding for Community Health Centers, the National Health Service Corps, and the Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education Program for each of fiscal years 2021 through 2023 as part of Medicare programs requiring annual extensions.
  • Federal research agencies also saw increases over last year’s funding with $1.47 billion for the National Institute on Drug Abuse, $390 million for the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities, and $2 billion for the National Institute of Mental Health.
  • Finally, included in the appropriations package was $25 million for research related to firearm violence and prevention.

The president is expected to sign the legislation later this week.

American Psychiatric Association

The American Psychiatric Association, founded in 1844, is the oldest medical association in the country. The APA is also the largest psychiatric association in the world with more than 38,800 physician members specializing in the diagnosis, treatment, prevention and research of mental illnesses. APA’s vision is to ensure access to quality psychiatric diagnosis and treatment. For more information please visit www.psychiatry.org.

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