HHS Announces $3 Billion in SAMHSA Block Grants and New Behavioral Health Coordinating Council

Recently, Health and Human Services (HHS) announced that the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) will be awarding a total of $3 billion provided by the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 for mental health and substance use block grants.


$1.5 billion of this will be disbursed each by the Community Mental Health Services Block Grant Program and Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant Program to states and territories to support communities grappling with mental health and substance use needs during the COVID-19 pandemic.


In addition, Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra announced the formation of a new Behavioral Health Coordinating Council (BHCC) to oversee behavioral health in HHS. The Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use and the Assistant Secretary for Health will serve as the co-chairs of this coordinating body, which is comprised of senior leadership from across the Department.


According to Secretary Becerra's office, the BHCC's primary goal is to "facilitate collaborative, innovative, transparent, equitable, and action-oriented approaches to addressing the HHS' behavioral health agenda."


These efforts come at a time when behavioral health services are needed more than ever, but remain underutilized.


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) preliminary data shows that the prevalence of anxiety symptoms was approximately three times those reported in the second quarter of 2019, and the prevalence of depression was approximately four times that reported in the second quarter of 2019. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released data highlighting that despite an overall rebound for most of Medicaid and CHIP funded-services, mental health utilization remains below pre-pandemic levels.