On Friday, President Trump signed a $2 trillion stimulus package into law, including $425 million toward behavioral healthcare. As reported by NASMHPD in its weekly update, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), designed to boost the U.S. economy hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic, includes $425 million for SAMHSA’s health surveillance and program support “to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus, domestically or internationally.” Within the amount to SAMHSA, $100 million is discretionary spending, which the agency can use to respond to a mental health or substance use emergency. A portion, no less than $15 million, must be designated to “tribes, tribal organizations, urban Indian health organizations, or health or behavioral health service providers to tribes.”
In the update, NASMHPD announced that, along with the American Psychiatric Association, it will pursue having part of the funding go to crisis services. The nonprofit goes into the nuances of the stimulus package, including that out of the $425 million to SAMHSA, $250 million will go to the Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic (CCBHC) Expansion Grant program, which “increases access to and improves the quality of community mental and substance use disorder treatment services through the expansion of CCBHCs.” $50 million will go to suicide prevention programs.
NASMHPD noted that the stimulus package also includes a significant language shift in section 3221, which addresses the confidentiality and disclosure of records related to substance use disorders. It aligns the disclosure of personal health information (PHI) restrictions of people who receive treatment for substance use disorders with those of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Brian Hepburn, MD, executive director of the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors (NASMHPD), told #CrisisTalk that, under 42 CFR, restrictions of what can be disclosed by a substance use disorder provider has posed a barrier to integrated care. “This critical change in language will help improve communication between providers and, as a result, allow them to better help the people they serve.”
Read the entire update from NASMHPD to learn more about how the CARES Act impacts local public health agencies’ access to personal protective equipment (PPE), testing, and how to mitigate community spread at the local level and more.