On Thursday, March 11, President Joe Biden signed the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act into law. The American Rescue Plan Act builds on the relief bills passed by Congress in 2020 and represents the first major piece of legislation passed in the 117th Congress.
This week also marks the one year anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic’s public health mitigation efforts that have exacerbated the opioid and substance use epidemics. NAADAC and substance use disorder and mental health stakeholders have been engaging with policymakers for the last year advocating for federal investments to adequately support the prevention and treatment of substance use disorders in communities across the country.
Although more investments will be needed both during and after the pandemic, NAADAC is pleased that the American Rescue Plan Act includes emergency funding for substance use and mental health programs, extends unemployment insurance programs, provides assistance to individuals and families, expands health insurance programs, funds public health efforts, and provides aid to small businesses, states and local governments.
“NAADAC congratulates President Biden and Congress on delivering the American Rescue Plan,” said NAADAC Executive Director Cynthia Moreno Tuohy, BSW, NCAC II, CDC III, SAP. “Its robust funding for addiction and mental health services, infrastructure and public health workforce support establishes an economic strategy for rebuilding the substance use and mental health disorder systems of care. We applaud this remarkable effort!”
NAADAC will continue to track the legislation as it goes through the regulatory and implementation process. We will keep you apprised of agency guidance to ensure that addiction professionals are able to access the mental health and substance use disorder program funds to better serve your clients and communities. Below is an overview of some of the key elements of the legislation.
Substance Use Disorder and Mental Health Funding. The American Rescue Plan Act includes just under $4 billion in emergency funding for substance use and mental health programs, including:
- $1.5 billion for block grants for prevention and treatment of substance use;
- $1.5 billion for block grants for community mental health services;
- $420 million for expansion grants for certified community behavioral health clinics;
- $100 million for behavioral health workforce education and training;
- $80 million for mental health and substance use disorder training for health care professionals, paraprofessionals, and public safety officers;
- $80 million for pediatric mental health care access;
- $50 million for community based funding for local behavioral health needs;
- $40 million for grants for health care providers to promote mental health among their health professional workforce;
- $30 million for project AWARE;
- $30 million for community based funding for local substance use disorder services;
- $20 million for education and awareness campaign encouraging healthy work conditions and use of mental health and substance use disorder services by health care professionals;
- $20 million for youth suicide prevention; and
- $10 million for the national child traumatic stress network.
The bill also provides $8.5 billion for rural health care providers for expenses and lost revenue attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic. The funds will be administered by HHS through the Provider Relief Fund.
Health Care Expansion and Mobile Crisis Response Teams. The bill includes an expansion of Medicaid and private health insurance. The bill expands the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) premium tax credits used to purchase health insurance and allows individuals who receive unemployment compensation in 2021 to qualify for reduced cost-sharing under the ACA. The bill also fully covers premiums for COBRA health insurance coverage for workers that lose their jobs.
Further, the bill expands Medicaid to cover vaccine and treatment costs and provides incentives to non-ACA Medicaid expansion states to access federal funds to expand their programs. The bill also provides optional federal Medicaid funding for states to cover mobile crisis intervention services for mental health or substance use disorders.
To be eligible, mobile crisis teams need to include at least one behavioral health professional capable of conducting an assessment of the individual, in accordance with the professional’s permitted scope of practice under State law. The teams can also include other professionals or paraprofessionals with appropriate expertise in behavioral health or mental health crisis response, including nurses, social workers, and peer support specialists, and others as designated by a state’s Medicaid program.
Small Business. The bill provides an additional $7.25 billion for the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and expands the program’s eligibility to more tax-exempt organizations, with the exception of 501(c) (4) social welfare groups.
Federal, State, and Local Aid. The bill provides $360 billion for state, local, tribal, and territorial governments to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. The funds can be used for a variety of programs, including assistance for households, small businesses, nonprofits, and premium pay or grants to essential employees. The funds will also be available to provide government services impacted by revenue reductions and allow states and local governments to make investments in capital projects, including expansions of broadband infrastructure.
The bill also provides an additional $50 billion in funds to the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Disaster Relief Fund to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and other major disasters. FEMA has been one of the leading federal agencies partnering with state and local governments to administer and distribute COVID-19 vaccines.