Grassroots Action Center

Update on State of the Union and Federal Mental Health Policy
March 18, 2024 by NBCC Government Affairs

Coinciding with President Biden’s State of the Union Address on March 7, the White House released a fact sheet that covers numerous domestic policy issues, including recent actions on behavioral health issues and upcoming initiatives by the administration to address ongoing access to care challenges.

Key Takeaways:

  • The administration is working to finalize the proposed mental health parity rule that was issued late last year to ensure health plans are improving access to behavioral health care services in their insurance panels. 
  • The administration will advocate this year for Congress to further increase access to behavioral health care services by expanding coverage in Medicare and private insurance, applying federal mental health parity requirements for private plans to Medicare beneficiaries, and extending Medicare incentive programs to address mental health provider shortages. 
  • The administration is expected to release in a few months a policy roadmap for growing and diversifying the workforce to address behavioral health issues.


New Behavioral Health Initiatives

New programs were highlighted by the Biden Administration in the leadup to the State of the Union address and are now officially part of the president’s proposed 2024-–25 federal budget submitted to Congress on March 11.

  • The administration has already invested $280 million to increase school-based mental health services, thanks to 2022’s Bipartisan Safer Communities Act. The Department of Health and Human Services will award additional grant funding this year.
  • The Department of Veterans Affairs will continue to hire veteran peer specialists and will launch a new $10 million program to prevent veteran suicide.
  • The administration recommends a $1 billion investment to advance health information technology adoption and engagement in interoperability for certain behavioral health providers.
  • The administration has urged Congress to strengthen penalties for fentanyl trafficking and will request billions in funding for addiction treatment.
  • In February, SAMHSA announced nearly $37 million in grant programs to support behavioral health services around the country. SAMHSA also announced the recipients of over $5 million in grant funding to support LGBTQI+ youth and families.
  • The Health Resources and Services Administration is accepting applications for its Rural Opioid Treatment and Recovery Initiative. Funding totals almost $50 million to “support establishing and expanding comprehensive substance use disorder treatment and recovery services in rural areas, including by increasing access to medications for opioid use disorder, such as buprenorphine.”

Next Steps

NBCC will be monitoring the implementation of the administration’s initiatives to increase access to mental health services, and highlighting opportunities for counselors to participate in these efforts.

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