American Rescue Act Offers Significant New Funds to Address Mental Health Needs in the U.S.

SACRAMENTO, CA / ACCESSWIRE / May 3, 2021 / The global pandemic which has raged for the past year has caused damage far beyond sickness and mortality. The economic damage also has been broad and deep and devastating for millions. With multiple highly effective vaccines now in use, there is reason to be optimistic that the spread of the virus can be curtailed. As the virus’s spread is slowing, economies are opening commensurately, and we can see the signs of what is expected to be a relatively rapid return to economic growth around the world, and with it the beginnings of recovery for so many who have suffered financial harm during the pandemic.

“An area that has received relatively less public attention, but is no less serious, is the terrible and sometimes tragic effect the pandemic has had on mental health all over the world,” notes Dr. Cynthia Telles, a board member for Kaiser Foundation Health Plan and Hospitals. “Millions of people with existing mental health challenges have experienced even more difficulty as a result of the pandemic. Millions more have experienced new symptoms of mental illness, often for the first time in their lives.”

Anxiety, depression, domestic violence, alcohol and other substance abuse, suicide rates – all appear to be on the rise around the world. Last October, the World Health Organization released a survey of 130 of its member nations which confirmed that mental health needs were rising, but also revealed that in a majority of countries, mental health services were being disrupted by the pandemic and the effort to contain its spread. These disruptions to access to care were the result of several factors, including a shortage of trained mental health workers, in part because they were redeployed to COVID-19 health care response efforts (in 30% of countries); the use of mental health facilities as temporary pandemic quarantine or treatment locations (in 19% of countries); and even the global shortage of personal protective equipment (in 28% of countries).

Importantly, while the vast majority of nations confirmed that addressing mental health needs of their populations was part of their pandemic response plans, fewer than one in five (17 percent) responded that they had committed new funding for this critical need.

With the passage into law of the American Rescue Plan in mid-March, the United States has committed significant additional funding for mental health services. The broad pandemic recovery package contains billions of dollars in new funding dedicated expressly to addressing the mental health needs of our communities.

The COVID-19 Relief Package includes nearly $4 billion for state and local mental health and substance use services, school-based mental health programs and workforce training, including:

  • $3 billion in block grant funding for community mental health services and for the prevention and treatment of substance abuse
  • $100 million for education and training for the nation’s behavioral health workforce
  • $140 million in funding to promote mental health among health care professionals and first responders
  • $420 million for mental health grants to communities and community organizations that support Community Behavioral Health Clinics, $50 million to address increased community behavioral health needs worsened by the COVID-19 public health emergency, and $30 million for community-based funding for local substance abuse treatment and prevention programs
  • $20 million for youth suicide prevention efforts, and $30 million to fund Project Aware, which is dedicated to advancing wellness and resiliency in education. Another $80 million is included to support and expand pediatric mental health access, as well as $10 million for the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, which is addressing the problem of high-risk or medically underserved persons who experience violence-related stress

There are billions more in the Rescue Act to help address housing issues, including resources for persons with serious mental illness experiencing homelessness or at risk of losing their homes, to expand Medicaid coverage to more people, and even additional funding to expand Medicaid-funded Mobile Crisis Teams, which help individuals experiencing mental health crises.

“To be clear, these funds, while significant, will not immediately solve all of our nation’s mental health challenges,” said Dr. Cynthia Telles. “We need to expand the accessibility of mental health services, increase the cadre of mental health professionals, and adapt the traditional delivery model to meet the specific social, cultural and linguistic needs of our communities.”

Kaiser Permanente has created several tools to address these challenges, including a new Master of Science in Counseling program and tuition assistance covering up to 75% of tuition costs for employees, and a Mental Health Scholars Academy, which supports the training of up to 1,000 new mental health professionals in California. Dr. Cynthia Telles reports that the initiative also seeks to increase diversity in the professional mental health workforce in order to address gaps in linguistic, ethnic, and racial representation.

As a nation, we will need to adopt bold initiatives in order to address the long-term mental health challenges our nation faces that have been exacerbated by the pandemic.

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Contact: Andrew Mitchell,

SOURCE: Cynthia Telles

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