Washington, DC (March 26, 2014) — Congressional negotiators released a final Medicare SGR Repeal bill today that includes $900 million to fund the bipartisan Excellence in Mental Health Act. The Excellence Act, sponsored by Senators Stabenow (D-MI) and Blunt (R-MO) along with Representatives Matsui (D-CA) and Lance (R-NJ), would improve quality and expand access to mental health care and substance use treatment through community behavioral health clinics. The legislation would establish a two year demonstration program in eight states to offer a broad range of mental health and substance abuse services like 24-hour crisis psychiatric services while setting new high standards for providers. The legislation now moves to both chambers for consideration.
“After decades of devastating state and federal budget cuts, the time has come to reinvest in mental health and substance abuse services. The Excellence Act does just that.” said Linda Rosenberg, President and CEO of the National Council for Behavioral Health. “As many as 240,000 people will be able to receive critical mental and behavioral health services as a result of Excellence Act funding. When people receive the quality mental health and substance abuse services they need, the benefits of treatment extend far beyond the individual – to their families, their professional colleagues and their community at large. We are all better off when quality mental health and substance abuse services are available. This is an historic day and it would not have been possible without the tireless work of Senator Debbie Stabenow and the bill’s bipartisan sponsors.”
The National Council for Behavioral Health has long been a champion of the Excellence Act, which expands access to evidenced-based community health care for children and adults with serious and persistent mental illnesses. If enacted, the legislation will reduce high hospital emergency room utilization among persons living with behavioral health conditions while easing the burden on hard-pressed law enforcement agencies in urban and rural areas. Additionally, the Excellence Act demonstration will assist the Veterans Administration (VA) with serving the young men and women returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with service connected mental disorders including clinical depression and PTSD.
The National Council for Behavioral Health is the unifying voice of America’s community mental health and addictions treatment organizations. Together with our 2,000 member organizations, we serve our nation’s most vulnerable citizens — the more than 8 million adults and children living with mental illnesses and addiction disorders. We are committed to ensuring all Americans have access to comprehensive, high-quality care that affords every opportunity for recovery and full participation in community life. The National Council pioneered Mental Health First Aid in the U.S. and has trained nearly 150,000 individuals to connect youth and adults in need to mental health and addictions care in their communities. Learn more at www.TheNationalCouncil.org.