Earlier this month, Congress passed another sweeping COVID-19 relief bill. Titled the American Rescue Plan, the legislation was signed into law by President Joe Biden after months of debate in both the House and the Senate. The most widely known provisions include economic stimulus checks for Americans and extended federal unemployment benefits.
The legislation was the top priority for the Biden administration in the first months of his presidency. Congress is now expected to shift focus to other policy issues, including telehealth and FY22 appropriations. However, another COVID-19 relief bill is certainly possible this year.
The legislation does contain significant mental health provisions. It provides $30 million in grant money to state and local health departments to address the drug overdose crisis that has been exacerbated by the pandemic. It also provides $130 million in grant money to state and local education agencies.
Those entities can use those grants for a variety of expenses, including hiring and training mental health counselors to work in school settings. Most significantly, the legislation provides $1.75 billion in additional funds for the Community Mental Health Services Block Grant and $1.75 billion for the Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant. These programs have been vitally important in combating the growing opioid and mental health crises in the U.S., and substantial funding increases for both shows a sustained commitment from lawmakers to address these issues. NBCC’s government affairs team will continue to advocate for increased funding for mental health programs in future COVID-19 relief bills.