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End of Year Federal Spending Bill Includes Support for Mental Health and Other NASW Priorities

The FY2023 omnibus appropriations package was signed by President Biden on December 29, 2022. This $1.7 trillion-dollar spending bill will keep the government running through September 2023, the end of the current fiscal year, and also served as a year-end legislative vehicle for legislative priorities.

"It'll invest in medical research, safety, veteran healthcare, disaster recovery, VAWA funding—and gets crucial assistance to Ukraine," Biden wrote in a Twitter post. "Looking forward to more in 2023."

NASW advocated for a host of key policies and investments that were included, a few of which to note:

  1. Two-year telehealth extension
  2. Averting some of the Medicare Reimbursement cut for CY 2023
  3. Expansion of scholarships and loan repayment for mental health providers
  4. The Behavioral Health Workforce Education and Training (BHWET) program received a total of $153 million, representing a $30 million increase.
  5. $20 million to help communities create mobile behavioral health crisis response teams, representing a $10 million increase.
  6. $10 million for grants to states to support parity enforcement.

Some priorities were omitted, such as child tax credit expansion, and, after a dedicated year of continued advocacy and advancement of the Improving Access to Mental Health Act along with many other mental health and substance use disorder reform policies, many of which were also included in Senate Finance Committee bipartisan mental health care discussion draft, did not make it into the final omnibus bill. While we and our Congressional champions fought hard every step of the way, the Improving Access to Mental Health Act was not in the final bill.  We are actively working with our champions on Capitol Hill and the Administration to find a path forward in the 118th Congress. There were multiple Committees in both chambers of Congress that were advocating for major mental health reforms and only a few proposals made it to the finish line.

The lead sponsors of the Improving Access to Mental Health Act (S. 870/H.R. 2035), Sens. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and John Barrasso (R-WY) also sponsored the Mental Health Access Improvement Act (S. 828/H.R. 432), which expands the Medicare workforce to include marriage and family therapists and mental health counselors. These provisions made it into the omnibus. Our champions tried to move the two bills together, but the S.870/H.R. 2035 provisions did not make it into the final omnibus.

We remain committed to building on the tremendous momentum gained in the 117th Congress and are already working to achieve enactment of the Improving Access to Mental Health Act in the 118th Congress.

Note: NASW advocated for the above items in our end of year letter and we sent out action alerts on the Medicare cuts, Improving Access to Mental Health Act and other End of Year Mental Health package advocacy : https://www.socialworkers.org/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=B2ssRzQ4NBA%3d&portalid=0

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