States are about to get help for mental healthcare and substance use treatment because of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act signed by the President in June. Some of this will flow through Medicaid programs, specifically the Medicaid Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics (CCBHCs) nationwide created in 2014.
The Act also supports:
- Increased telehealth flexibility
- Pediatric mental healthcare and training for pediatricians
- One-time funding ($150 million) for the existing Suicide and Crisis Lifeline or 988 crisis number, similar to the 911 system. (States have a preexisting July 16 deadline to have these up and running.)
- School-based mental health services, crisis intervention and violence prevention, and mental health worker training
While mental health advocates are pleased by the new support, there are caveats.
- Experts agree the mental health and substance use disorder impact of the pandemic has been significant and is still being felt. Future needs are expected to be long-lasting. Some predict the impact to last a generation.
- A lack of psychiatric beds continues to be an issue. While crisis stabilization can reduce harm and identify resources, inpatient care is hard to come by in most states, resulting in emergency-room boarding and a revolving door through the justice system for the seriously mentally ill, who are often overlooked in mental health programs.
- Provider shortages continue to be a concern, although telehealth flexibilities may help mitigate them in the short term.
- Equity continues to be an issue throughout the system and mental health is no exception.
Sensing the opportunity in addressing mental health, private investors had poured $3.1 billion into mental health ventures by the third quarter of 2021 – a third of all digital health funding for that year. Technology isn’t likely to replace the human touch, but innovation and technology can certainly have a role in improving access.