This past weekend Congress passed the “Continuing Resolution – Omnibus” spending bill (HR 83) for the remaining months of fiscal year 2015 which runs through Sept. 30, 2015. The measure is now waiting for the President’s signature. This bill contains good news and bad news for mental health. The good news: HR 83 provides a small increase in funding for mental illness research. Bad news: the bill includes a small reduction for mental health services.
The omnibus bill prevents any further cuts to funding at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). Overall the National Institutes of Health (NIH) budget for 2015 will be increased by almost $150 million. NIMH received a budget increase of almost $17 million for a total budget of $1.463 billion for 2015. The bill also allocates funding to the NIMH as part of the President’s Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative. Multiple federal agencies and a number of foundations collaborate in the BRAIN Initiative designed to release new technologies and undertake basic mapping of circuits and neurons in the brain.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) will receive a $39 million increase over fiscal year 2014 levels, for a total budget of $3.62 billion. However, most of this increase is directed to the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment to address the growing crisis of opiate addiction in America. Funding at the SAMHSA Center for Mental Health Services (CMHS) will actually be reduced for 2015 – a reduction of $9.4 million out of total CMHS funding level of $1.079 billion. Almost every line item in the CMHS budget endures a small reduction, in most cases, less than 0.5%. Among the highlights of the final CMHS budget for 2015 are:
Most programs under the CMHS “Programs of Regional and National Significance” (PRNS) would continue at levels slightly below their 2014 level. The total amount for 2015 for PRNS is $366.6 million which is a $7.7 million reduction. Among these line items are:
This bill regrettably does not include the increases put forward in President Obama’s 2015 budget proposal for supportive housing programs. Back in February, the President proposed $301 million in additional funding for development of new permanent supportive housing (PSH). These new funds were projected to continue the program on a trajectory to end chronic homelessness by 2017. The President’s budget also called for a $25 million increase for the HUD Section 811 Project-Based Rental Assistance (PRA) program which supports the lowest income people with long-term disabilities to live independently in the community. The spending bill did not include either of these requests and instead provides only enough funding to renew the operating subsidies associated with existing PSH units in both programs. The bill does include an additional $75 million in funding for new rental vouchers for supportive housing for veterans experiencing homelessness under the Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (VASH) program.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical services are funded for 2015 at $45.2 billion – which will provide care and treatment for about 6.7 million veterans.
This funding includes:
The bill also includes $209 million to help address new costs related to the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014 (VACAA) – such as hiring medical staff and expanding facility capacity – and to implement the Caregivers Act, which provides stipends and other assistance to families of seriously wounded veterans.
To assist the VA in meeting its goal of ending the disability compensation claims backlog by the end of 2015, the bill includes $2.5 billion for the costs of processing disability claims. This level is a $69 million increase from last year. Language is also included directing that $40 million of the increase should be used to support digital scanning of claims, to hire additional claims processors in regional offices, and for the centralized mail initiative. Funding for the Board of Veterans Appeals is increased by $11 million for a total of $99 million to address the looming appeals backlog.
Finally, the bill contains $58.7 billion in advance fiscal year 2016 funding for the VA – the same level provided in the House budget resolution. This funding will provide for medical services, medical support and compliance, and medical facilities, and ensure that our veterans have continued, full access to their medical care.
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