HHS announces over $100 million in funds to address mental health emergencies

Oct. 25, 2022

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), announced more than $100 million this week in funding from the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (BSCA) to states and territories for mental health emergency preparedness, crisis response, and the expansion of 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline services. BSCA, signed into law by President Biden earlier this year, provided unprecedented funding to address the nation’s mental health crisis and make our communities safer.

On Monday, HHS awarded $59.4 million to states and territories through the Community Mental Health Services Block Grant (MHBG) program, with the recommendation that the funding be spent to address mental health emergency preparedness and crisis response efforts. SAMHSA sent a letter - PDF to state mental health commissioners recommending that state behavioral health systems examine requirements to address mental health needs in communities in the aftermath of traumatic events such as mass shootings.

The HHS also announced the availability of another $50 million in supplemental grant funding, provided by BSCA, to help states and territories expand and enhance 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline services. The funding is available to the 54 states and territories that received $105 million in American Rescue Plan funding earlier this year. These state and territory supplemental awards will range from about $458,000 to $2 million and will be distributed before Dec. 31.

The block grants and supplemental funding announced today build on several other mental health announcements HHS made this week. On Tuesday, HHS announced more than $300 million to support and expand Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics nationwide, which provide 24/7 crisis services and comprehensive behavioral health care to local communities.  The expansion of these clinics was also funded through the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act. And yesterday, in response to reports of “quiet quitting” and the “Great Resignation,” Surgeon General Vivek Murthy released a new Surgeon General’s Framework outlining the foundational role that workplaces should play in promoting the mental health and well-being of workers and our communities.

SAMHSA recommended that states and territories use the MHBG supplemental funding from BSCA to, among other things: develop statewide mental health emergency preparedness and response plans focused on collaboration with law enforcement and other local agencies; identify mobile crisis teams that can be deployed rapidly throughout the state to address mental health during an emergency; provide behavioral health crisis response trainings to agencies and providers; identify culturally and linguistically appropriate support for diverse populations; and build and leverage relationships with 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline call centers, child welfare organizations, schools and others.

On July 16, the U.S. transitioned to 988 as a new way to reach the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline (formerly the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline). This easy-to-remember, three-digit resource provides access to trained counselors for suicide, mental health and substance use-related crises 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

SAMHSA expects 988 state and territorial grantees to use the supplemental funding to improve response capacity, including the ability to respond to calls in languages other than English spoken by state and territory residents; to improve and enhance collaboration between 988 and 911 services, and to help with hiring, retention; and marketing and communications to improve awareness of the 988 Lifeline.

HHS release