Improving Access to Mental Health Services

Content From: Kana Enomoto, Principal Deputy Administrator, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), U.S. Dept. of Health and Human ServicesPublished: February 17, 20163 min read


Editor's Note: Mental health and substance use disorders can put individuals at greater risk for HIV infection and, for those living with HIV, can make engagement in HIV care and adherence to treatment more challenging. Visit our HIV/AIDS Basics page for more information on mental health and HIV.
 Kana Enomoto, Acting Administrator, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
Kana Enomoto, Acting Administrator, SAMHSA
Summary: The President’s FY 2017 Budget proposes new investments to increase access to mental health care.

As part of his January announcement of new Executive Actions to reduce gun violence and make our communities safer, the President announced that his Fiscal Year 2017 Budget would propose $500 million in new investments to increase access to mental health care. The President’s announcement builds on the Administration’s efforts over several years to increase access to mental health services.

The Affordable Care Act has expanded behavioral health coverage for millions of Americans in three critical areas. The law ends insurance company discrimination based on pre‐existing conditions. It requires coverage of mental and substance use disorder services in the Health Insurance Marketplace. It also expands behavioral health parity. As a result, more than 60 million Americans have better coverage for, and improved access to, mental health and substance abuse services.

The Now is the Time initiative launched by the President and the Vice President in 2013 has expanded access to training and supports to help teachers and others learn the signs and symptoms of mental health issues and connect young people to treatment. It has also expanded our federal investments in training the behavioral healthcare workforce, so that we can support more mental and substance use disorder treatment providers in communities across the country.

Yet, more work is needed to ensure that families can access the care they need. Only about half of children and less than half of adults with diagnosable mental disorders get the treatment they need. Despite the expansion of behavioral health coverage through the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act and the Affordable Care Act, we must do more. That’s why the President’s Fiscal Year 2017 Budget proposes $500 million in a new two-year mandatory funding initiative to improve access to mental health services. The Administration understands the need and is answering the call.

The new initiative will:
  • Expand the number of states participating in the Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic demonstration. This program builds on a bipartisan proposal in Congress and will increase access to community-based mental and substance use disorder services in six more States across the country;
  • Increase access to early intervention programs that address serious mental illness in order to avoid delays in the identification and treatment of serious mental illness that can result in poorer health outcomes;
  • Expand the behavioral health workforce in underserved communities by supporting additional scholarships and loan repayment for mental health professionals who practice in the areas of the country that need them most;
  • Focus interventions on preventing suicide that will reduce key risk factors for suicide and increase referral and treatment for suicidal behavior, and
  • Enhance behavioral health services in Indian Country, including support for new specialized crisis response staffing and more behavioral health providers in American Indian communities.
The Administration is committed to increasing access to mental health services to protect the health and well-being of our children and communities. And this new funding initiative builds on a $280 million increase in the Budget to expand on the ongoing work of the Administration to respond to mental health needs in communities across the country by helping to ensure that the behavioral health care system works for everyone, expand service and workforce capacity, and engage individuals with serious mental illness in care. We look forward to working with Congress to implement the President’s proposal.

The National HIV/AIDS Strategy calls for support for screening and referral to behavioral health services for people living with HIV as part of a concerted national effort to improve health outcomes for those living with HIV and reduce new infections.