The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act is the first major gun legislation in 30 years. It was passed in the hope of reducing the threat of violence in the United States.
It contains some measures to curb gun violence, but left under-discussed in the popular media are the larger efforts affecting our customers and our colleagues supporting providers of mental health services found in Title I of the bill. News coverage of the legislation has tended to address the gun control measures listed in Title II:
- The “boyfriend loophole” has been closed, restricting the purchase of firearms by any romantic partner convicted of domestic assault on a go-forward basis.
- Section 12004 sets the penalties for trafficking illegal firearms or purchasing firearms for someone restricted from owning guns.
- Section 12001 sets a 10-day period in which an extended National Instant Criminal Background Check (NICS) may be conducted for gun buyers under age 21, considering specific crimes committed between age 16 and 18.
These somewhat subdued gun control measures have been the main takeaway from the new law. We’ve heard far less about measures listed in Title I of the bill, a section that devotes $13 billion to supporting mental health.
What’s in Title I?
With $8 billion of the total funding, efforts to expand the Medicaid Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics (CCBHC) program make up the majority of the bill’s effects. The goal of the CCBHC program is to provide 24-hour crisis care for mental health and substance use issues, whether or not an individual has insurance, which will surely have a great effect on the mental health and substance use fields.
Because of our investment in the health, safety, and mental well-being of children, we also care deeply about some other under-reported aspects of the new laws: There are significant funds earmarked for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Department of Education (DOE).
Title I Funding Administered via SAMHSA Programs
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is the leading HHS agency for our national strategy on mental and substance use disorders. SAMHSA programs seek to deepen the access young people have to mental health care. One way to expand this access is through Behavioral Health Integrated Care, in which primary pediatric care and mental health providers work collaboratively toward the goal of whole-person treatment.
There are several programs earmarked for creation or expansion through Title I of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act through SAMHSA:
- Community Mental Health Block Grant program – $250 million over 4 years to fund community organizations providing care to adults with serious mental illness and children with serious emotional disturbances.
- Project AWARE (Advancing Wellness and Resilience in Education) – $240 million over 4 years to educate school personnel on mental health disorders.
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (988) – $150 million to help states implement the 988 number, which provides free 24/7 confidential support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress.
- Mental Health Awareness Training Grant Program – $120 million over 4 years to train first responders to assist individuals with mental disorders.
- Pediatric Mental Health Care Access (PMCHA) grant program – $80 million over 4 years to offer grants to connect pediatricians virtually with mental health professionals who can provide guidance.
- National Child Traumatic Stress Network – $40 million over 4 years to assist children that have experienced traumatic events.
- Health Resources and Administration (HRA) Primary Care Training and Enhancement Program – $60 million over 5 years to train pediatricians to support their patients in need of mental health services.
Support of the Department of Education
Over $2 billion will also be funneled to the Department of Education, primarily to bolster the numbers of trained staff available across the country to support children in need of mental health care:
- Title IV-A of the Every Student Succeeds Act – $1 billion to create a variety of school safety programs, crisis intervention programs, and school personnel training on suicide prevention and human trafficking.
- School-Based Mental Health Services Grants – $500 million to train and staff providers in underserved schools.
- School-Based Mental Health Services Professional Demonstration Grant – $500 million to address the shortage of school staff available to support mental health, counselors, social workers, and psychologists.
- 21st Century Community Learning Centers – $50 million to fund extracurricular, after-school, and summer programs for teens.
Big Numbers…but is it enough?
The $13 billion in funding equates to about $310 for each of the 42 million adolescents in the United States, ages 10–19. But, it will take more money, more effort, and more empathy to find a long standing solution. While this funding alone is far from a panacea for the crisis of mental health among our youth, we trust that many will put Title I grants to good use. As more details are made available regarding these funds, we will keep our customers and colleagues updated.