Congress Funds Counselor Priorities in Budget Bill

The $1.3 trillion spending package passed by Congress and signed by the President contains increased funding for counseling and other behavioral health programs.

Behavioral health workforce issues were featured prominently in the legislation. The Behavioral Health Workforce Education and Training program saw a $25 million increase to a total of $75 million. The National Health Service Corps received an increase of $105 million to expand and improve access to quality opioid and substance use disorder treatment in rural and underserved areas.

The agreement specifically expanded loan repayment awards to substance abuse disorder counselors. The SAMHSA Minority Fellowship Program received an increase of $1 million to a total of $12.67 million, although the extra funding was directed to psychology, addiction psychiatry, and addiction medicine. The omnibus also provided $25 million for Mental and Behavioral Health Education Training, a program that recruits and trains professionals and faculty in the substance abuse and mental health fields.

The opioid crisis has been the focus of many legislators, receiving about $4 billion in new funding. A new Rural Communities Opioid Response Program was provided $130 million to focus on the needs of rural and underserved counties. The initiative includes improving access to and recruitment of new substance use disorder counselors.

Many other behavioral health programs were funded at higher levels throughout the federal government. These increases signify a new priority among lawmakers about the need to fund mental health and addictions programs. The NBCC supports this trend and will be working with agencies on the implementation of the new funding.

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