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Statement from National Council for Behavioral Health President/CEO in Response to Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use

According to news reports, Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use (OAS) Elinore McCance-Katz, MD, PhD, who leads the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, attended a White House Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, May 19, and warned her colleagues in the Administration that “if we ignore the reality of the enormous mental health strain we’ve put on our citizens … I’m saddened but certain that the next major public health crisis of our time will be that of mental and substance use disorders, and it is not far behind.”

National Council for Behavioral Health President and CEO Chuck Ingoglia issued the following statement in response to McCance-Katz’s remarks:

We absolutely agree with Dr. McCance-Katz that a large-scale public health catastrophe is just around the corner as millions of people living with mental illness or addiction are poised to flood health centers, urgent care facilities, and emergency departments, all of which are already overburdened. And we believe policymakers have not only the opportunity but also the obligation to respond aggressively now to prevent that crisis.

But unfortunately, as a nation, we are not prepared. Community Behavioral Health Organizations (CBHOs) nationwide are in a dire economic crisis and in jeopardy of failing because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Reopening the nation without simultaneously ensuring the capacity of the behavioral health system to respond to increased demand would be both irresponsible and dangerous. But that is exactly what will happen without a $38.5 billion infusion of emergency funds for CBHOs.

CBHOs have received very limited funds from the CARES Act. The National Council estimates that among organizations that received CARES Act funding, most received funding equal to less than 1% of their annual operating budget. In other words, most organizations did not receive enough funding to maintain operations for even one week—and certainly not enough to extend their financial viability beyond the end of June.

Furthermore, funds allocated to CBHOs in the HEROES Act, recently passed by the House of Representatives, fall well short of the $38.5 billion needed to avert a national mental health and substance use disorder crisis.

Time is running out and the stakes have never been higher. If we hope to prevent a second crisis—the collapse of the behavioral health care system—then policymakers must act quickly. We look forward to continued discussions with bipartisan leaders in Congress to find a timely and appropriate solution.

Source: National Council for Behavioral Health