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Omnibus Budget Bill Includes Important Provisions Supporting Public Health, APA Says

The American Psychological Association (APA) commends congressional leaders for crafting a budget that puts public health over politics.

"This budget comes not a moment too soon for communities that have been devastated by the opioid epidemic and suicide," says APA CEO Arthur C. Evans Jr., PhD. "We are grateful that Congress set aside partisan differences and made strides to restore and enhance the budgets for critical science, education, and public health programs."

A $3 billion increase to the National Institutes of Health "will accelerate our fundamental understanding of such challenging health conditions as Alzheimer's disease, substance use, and pain, giving patients alternatives to pharmacological treatments," Evans says. "Just as important, this bill provides immediate relief to states and communities hit hardest by the opioid epidemic, while investing in long-term programs to accelerate research into addictions and pain treatments, as well as to expand the pipeline of mental health providers."

The budget recognizes that mental health is essential to the nation's public health, for children in schools, families in crisis, and veterans returning home, according to APA.

"We were especially heartened to see Congress take a comprehensive approach to combating the opioid epidemic by providing unprecedented investments in research, prevention, treatment, and the behavioral health workforce to take an immediate and long-term approach," Evans adds. "Lives will be saved by these investments, but lives will continue to be lost if we don't sustain our efforts. We look forward to continuing our efforts with Congress as we work on further bipartisan solutions to this multifaceted problem."

Evans praises the inclusion of resources to address the significant mental health workforce shortages across the country. "More than 100 million people live in areas without access to mental health providers, which is why investments in workforce training, expansion of the National Health Service Corps, and telehealth strategies will get help to people where they live," he says. "Lives will be saved by these investments, which can serve as a blueprint for future and sustained efforts that are necessary to make a real impact."

APA worked with congressional appropriators to address other shared priorities, including the following:

• $350 million to support the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program;

• $1.1 billion for states—a $700 million increase—to support a grant program that would provide mental health counseling in schools, as well as expand technology and STEM education;

• A $52 million increase for behavioral workforce education and training at the Health Resources and Services Administration; and

• $1 million increase for the Minority Fellowship Program within the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to create new fellowships for psychologists and addiction medicine specialists.

"Researchers and providers, including psychologists, who want to make a difference are counting on loan repayment through the National Health Service Corps or the National Institutes of Health and on public service loan forgiveness," Evans says. "Our communities can't wait, our students can't wait, and lives will be saved by these investments in research, prevention, treatment, and the health care workforce."

Source: American Psychological Association