Excellence in Mental Health Act: $900 Million Investment in Mental Health Services is Most Significant in Decades

On March 31, 2014 the U.S. Senate passed legislation that included $900 million to fund the bipartisan Excellence in Mental Health Act. The legislation, which passed the U.S. House of Representatives as part of the Medicare SGR Repeal bill, establishes a two year demonstration program in eight states to offer a broad range of mental health and substance use treatment services, including 24-hour crisis psychiatric services, while setting new standards for provider organizations, with the goal of expanding into other states.

Senator Debbie Stabenow, said: “Today’s vote is a landmark step forward in the effort to expand community mental health services for people living with mental illness and reduce the stigma around mental illness. This is a critically important issue that touches all of our families in some way and this legislation is one of the most significant steps in decades to expand access to care. I’m glad that the both the House and the Senate were able to come together and act in a bipartisan way to strengthen mental health services.” As many as 240,000 people will be able to receive critical behavioral health services as a result of Excellence Act funding.

Faustino Venzor, who is living with mental illness and receiving treatment, told PoliticalNews.me: “I have struggled with manic depression for most of my adult life, after an acute psychiatric crisis in 2001. I was saved that day by quick action taken by my mother and by a community clinic where I was taken to receive treatment. Today, I am grateful to be in recovery, I have a loving wife and a three-month old baby, and I’ve been admitted to Columbia University in hopes of pursuing medicine. I know firsthand the difference that intensive community-based services can make in the lives of people with serious mental illness, which is why I support the Excellence in Mental Health Act.”

Along with 50 other mental health organizations, Mental Health America has been a steadfast supporter of the Excellence in Mental Health Act. The legislation strives to reduce high hospital emergency room utilization among persons living with behavioral health conditions and assist the the young men and women returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with service-connected mental disorders, including clinical depression and PTSD.