Good News in FY 2018 Federal Budget
On March 22, the House passed a bipartisan FY 2018 omnibus appropriations bill to fund the federal government through Sept. 30, 2018. The bill passed the House with a vote of 256-167 (90 Republicans and 77 Democrats voted against the bill). The Senate is expected to begin work on the bill immediately to prevent a government shutdown before the current continuing resolution ends on Friday.
The $1.3 trillion bill substantially boosts several of NAMI’s key priorities. The bill includes significant investments in research at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), to the Mental Health Block Grant and to key programs at the Departments of Housing and Urban Development, Veterans Affairs and Justice. By including meaningful funding increases for these programs, Congress has taken a crucial step to support individuals with mental health conditions.
NAMI released a press statement on the omnibus bill, which is available here.
Below is a summary of key provisions that impact people with mental illness and their families (increases noted below reflect additional funding over FY 2017 numbers).
Department of Health & Human Services (HHS)
The bill significantly boosts National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) funding and programs at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA):
- $1.711B, a $109.8M increase
This is the largest, single-year increase for NIMH since its budget was doubled in FY 2002. Additionally, this overall budget does not reflect a $149M increase for the BRAIN Initiative, a collaboration between 10 institutes at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), including NIMH and the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, and private philanthropy. The BRAIN Initiative will direct an additional $43M to NIMH.
Overall, NIH will see a $3B increase in FY 2018.
- $1.45B for SAMHSA mental health programs, an increase of nearly $306M
- $722.6M, a $160M increase for the Community Mental Health Block Grant (MHBG)
This is the largest single-year increase for the MHBG in the program’s history. Additionally, the MHBG includes a 10% set-aside to support evidence-based programs that provide treatment for first episode psychosis (FEP). The increase to the MHBG will increase this set-aside by nearly $20M.
- $100M for grants to communities and community organizations who meet the criteria for Certified Community Behavioral Health Centers (CCBHCs), available through Sept. 2020
Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD)
The omnibus budget significantly increases HUD funding in several key areas:
- $505M, a $402M increase, for Section 811 mainstream vouchers
These vouchers support non-elderly individuals with disabilities, including serious mental illness. This includes $385M for new Section 811 mainstream vouchers, which equates to as many as 54,000 new rent subsidies.
- $230M, a $84M increase, for the Section 811 Project-Based Rental Assistance (PRA) program
This would provide $82.6 million for new PRA units, the first new funding for the program since FY 2014.
McKinney Vento Homeless Assistance
- $2.513B, a $280M increase
This includes the largest increase for local “Continuum of Care” grants in recent years and will allow for the development of new Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH). It also includes $270M for Emergency Solutions Grants and $50M for “rapid rehousing” efforts.
Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (VASH)
- $40M (level funding from FY 2017)
This program provides vouchers to assist homeless and at-risk veterans into Permanent Supportive Housing.
Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)
The omnibus bill includes substantial investments in programs for veterans who live with mental health conditions and veterans in crisis:
VA Mental Health Services and Programs
- $8.38B, a $580M increase
This includes $315M for Vet Centers, an increase of $15M. Vet Centers provide mental health and readjustment counseling to combat veterans. The budget also includes an additional $22M for the National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), funding the Center at $40M to conduct cutting-edge research on PTSD.
Veteran Suicide Prevention Programs and Outreach
- $186M (some of this funding will come from the above Mental Health Services and Programs)
Within the suicide prevention funding, $10M has been added to Clay Hunt pilot programs, which are programs that connect veterans in crisis to services and programs in their community, and an additional $10M for the Veterans Crisis Line (VCL), increasing overall funding for the program to $99M.
Honor Our Commitment Act
- Notably, the Honor Our Commitment Act was included in the omnibus bill. This act requires VA to provide mental and behavioral health care to hundreds of thousands of at-risk veterans who received other-than-honorable discharges.
Department of Justice (DOJ)
Finally, the budget also includes increases to programs at DOJ that affect people with mental illness:
Mentally Ill Offender Treatment and Crime Reduction Act (MIOTCRA)
- $30M, a $18M increase
This is the most significant increase in MIOTCRA’s history. The program supports Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) programs, mental health courts, jail diversion programs, and other state and local initiatives to improve collaboration between criminal justice and mental health systems.
Byrne Justice Assistance Grants (JAG)
- $415M, a $12M increase
Byrne JAG is the primary provider of federal criminal justice funding to state and local jurisdictions. These funds can be used to support CIT and other programs that provide alternatives to arrests and incarceration for people with mental illness and co-occurring substance use disorders.
Veterans Treatment Courts
- $20M, a $13M increase
This significant increase will support the expansion of Veterans Treatment Courts, which assist veterans with mental health and substance use conditions by promoting early intervention and treatment rather than punishment.