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Biden Makes Mental Health Announcement

2:15 PM, Dec 10, 2013 • By DANIEL HALPER
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With the president on his way back from South Africa, it was left to Vice President Joe Biden to announce the administration's $100 million increase for "access to mental health services:"

VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN ANNOUNCES $100 MILLION TO INCREASE ACCESS TO MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES

As part of the Administration’s ongoing commitment to help individuals experiencing mental health problems, today Vice President Biden announced that $100 million will soon be available to increase access to mental health services and improve mental health facilities.

“The fact that less than half of children and adults with diagnosable mental health problems receive the treatment they need is unacceptable.  The President and I have made it a priority to do everything we can to make it easier to access mental health services, and today’s announcements by the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services and Agriculture build on that commitment,” said Vice President Biden.

Over the past several years, the Administration has taken steps to reduce the stigma associated with seeking help for mental illness, and to ensure that millions of Americans have access to health insurance that covers mental health and substance abuse disorder services at parity with medical and surgical benefits.  Also, the President has proposed an additional $130 million in his FY 2014 Budget for efforts such as helping to ensure teachers and other adults who work with youth can recognize signs of mental illness and connect children and their families to the treatment they need.

Today’s Announcement: $100 Million to Increase Access to Mental Health Services

·         $50 Million for Mental Health Services at Community Health Centers:  The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will soon issue a $50 million funding opportunity to help Community Health Centers establish or expand behavioral health services for people living with mental illness or addiction.  Community Health Centers can use these new funds, made available through the Affordable Care Act, for efforts such as hiring new mental health professionals and adding mental health and substance abuse disorder services.

·         $50 Million to Improve Mental Health Facilities:  Because proximity to mental health services can be a unique challenge in rural America, the Department of Agriculture has a new goal:  to finance $50 million for the construction, expansion, or improvement of mental health facilities in rural areas over the next three years.  These funds, made available through the Department’s Community Facilities direct loan program, can be used to improve or construct mental health service facilities or put in place innovative tools such as telemedicine to expand access to mental health services at rural schools, community centers, hospitals, and other community-based settings.

Building on a Record of Improving Access to Mental Health Care

The Affordable Care Act expands mental health and substance abuse disorder benefits and federal parity protections for approximately 60 million Americans.  That’s one of the largest expansions of mental health and substance abuse disorder coverage in a generation.  The law also requires most health plans to cover recommended preventive services like depression screenings for adults and behavioral assessments for children at no cost to consumers.  And starting in 2014, insurers will no longer be able to deny coverage or charge individuals more due to pre-existing health conditions, including mental illnesses.

Additionally, as part of the President and the Vice President’s gun violence reduction plan announced last January, the Administration has completed several key executive actions to increase access to mental health services, including:

·         HHS, the Department of Labor, and the Treasury Department issued a final rule implementing the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008.  Under this rule, insurers must cover benefits for mental health and substance abuse disorders, when offered, at parity with medical and surgical care benefits.  The regulation also includes important consumer protections, such as clarifying the information that insurance companies must provide to ensure transparency and compliance with the law.

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