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MHA Urges House Panel to Defeat Health Funding Bill

Mental Health America Urges House Panel to Defeat Health Funding Bill; Will Put Millions at Risk of Losing Vital Services

FY2013 Labor, Health and Human Services Measure Cuts Funding for Mental Health and Addiction Services and Supports by 10 Percent

Contact: Steve Vetzner, (703) 797-2588 or svetzner@mentalhealthamerica.net

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (July 17, 2012)—Mental Health America today urged the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services to defeat a health and human services spending bill, saying it would put millions of Americans at risk of losing vital services.

The FY2013 Labor, Health and Human Services bill, which will be taken up by the panel on Wednesday, would gut funding for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) by nearly 10 percent, while the Center for Mental Health Services would be reduced by 13 percent.

“These cuts put millions of Americans with, or at risk of, mental health and addiction disorders in peril because critical services and supports, including suicide prevention efforts, the lifeline to states by way of the block grants, and early intervention programs for children, are on the brink of being decimated,” said David Shern, Ph.D., president and CEO of Mental Health America.

Dr. Shern said the cuts would also severely jeopardize funding for public health agencies, including the National Institutes of Health, which all play a critical role in allowing individuals with a mental health condition achieve recovery and live a productive life in their community.

Despite SAMHSA’s record of success in addressing behavioral health concerns, funding levels for mental health and addiction services are in jeopardy of spiraling down to those of a decade ago. These potential cuts come on top of the more than $4 billion that states have been forced to cut from mental health spending over the course of the last three years—the largest single combined reduction to mental health spending since de-institutionalization in the 1970s.
“In many states, these cuts have dismantled the behavioral health safety net,” Dr. Shern said.

Dr. Shern said the House should follow the lead of the Senate appropriations panel, which approved a bill that provided needed increases for public health programs, including the Mental Health and Substance Abuse block grants, and rejected several proposed cuts.

The House bill rejected levels agreed to under the Budget Control Act and reduced the nondefense discretionary (NDD) spending cap by $19 billion, which resulted in $8 billion less than the Senate included in its FY2013 Labor, Health and Human Services spending bill.

“It is shortsighted to further cut discretionary funding in the interest of deficit reduction,” Dr. Shern said.  “Public health programs comprise just 1.7 percent of all federal spending, and all other NDD programs make up just 16 percent. These programs are not the reason behind our growing deficit. In fact, even completely eliminating all NDD programs would still not balance the budget. Yet NDD programs have borne the brunt of deficit reduction efforts to date.”

Dr. Shern said the funding bill would also put at risk the implementation of two laws important to the behavioral health community—the Affordable Care Act and the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act. It would also rescind the Prevention and Public Health Fund, which has provided over $200 million to integration grants, suicide prevention and other activities at SAMHSA.

Mental Health America has joined with more than 900 national, state, and local organizations in urging the Appropriations Committees to avoid further cuts to domestic programs that improve the lives of Americans and strengthen the nation’s security and called on the House to oppose this dangerous funding package.

Mental Health America (www.mentalhealthamerica.net) is the nation’s largest and oldest community-based network dedicated to helping all Americans achieve wellness by living mentally healthier lives. With our more than 300 affiliates across the country, we touch the lives of millions—Advocating for changes in mental health and wellness policy; Educating the public & providing critical information; and delivering urgently needed mental health and wellness Programs and Services.

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