April 18, 2018

Standard-Times: Support mental health funding

We all know someone who has dealt with a mental health condition - a friend, a family member, a partner, a co-worker, a neighbor. Nearly one in five adults experience mental illness each year, and about 10 million Americans experience a serious mental illness that substantially impacts their major life activities.

Despite the widespread need, the availability of mental health services is sharply limited. Over the past five years, the Mental Health Block Grant, the federal government's largest source of grant funding for mental health services, has been funded at only $500 million a year - even though the economic impact of serious mental illness alone has been estimated at over $193 billion a year.

Each year, the Block Grant helps support services that reach about 7 million people across the country, but that still leaves almost 12 million adults with mental health conditions who don't receive adequate services. Despite these enormous gaps in federal funding for mental health, President Trump still proposed cutting the Mental Health Block Grant in the most recent budget deal.

We've been fighting to make sure that Massachusetts gets the mental health funding it needs to care for everyone who needs help. Recently, we learned that this fight is paying off. As a result of efforts led by Senator Warren during the recent budget negotiations, funding for federal mental health programs like the Mental Health Block Grant are no longer on the chopping block. Instead, the federal grant will be increased by $160 million, a 30 percent increase from the previous year.


The Block Grant is one important piece of our work to increase access to mental health services - services that we know help people lead happier, healthier and more productive lives. Mental illness and addiction have a more widespread impact on our overall health and economy than any other disease categories in the United States, including cancer, yet we spend far less on mental health treatment than on many other diseases.

Supporting mental health services is also imperative to fighting the opioid epidemic, which killed over 42,000 individuals in 2016, including more than 2,000 people in Massachusetts. Last year, nearly half of adults dealing with an addiction also experienced a mental illness. We need to use every single tool in the toolbox to confront this epidemic and that includes dedicating sufficient funding to mental health services.

Increased funding for the Mental Health Block Grant is critical to addressing the needs of children and adults with mental health conditions and addiction in Massachusetts and across the country. Much more still needs to be done to expand and strengthen mental health and addiction services and to tackle the opioid crisis that is ravaging our state. These new federal funds are an important start, and we will continue to work to ensure that the people of our Commonwealth can get the help they desperately need and deserve.

Read the full op-ed on the Standard-Times website here

By:  Senator Elizabeth Warren and Danna Mauch
Source: Standard-Times