Take Action: Urge Legislators to Set Aside COVID Funding for Behavioral Health Providers
April 16, 2020
Here’s an Action Alert from the National Council requesting your support re; the $70B in funding (allocated through the CARES Act) that has yet to be designated. We wrote about this issue earlier today in our Update re: the Provider Relief Fund where we discussed the lack of clarity (to this point) regarding the methodology for appropriating the remainder of the available funds.
A recent survey of the National Council’s members shows the stark impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on our community. It’s clear – the majority of community behavioral health organizations will not be able to maintain operations without significant relief funding.
To financially bolster community mental health and addiction treatment organizations, a group of legislators are circulating a Dear Colleague letter requesting that the recent CARES Act funding include a specific allocation of funds for your organizations.
Representatives Paul Tonko, Doris Matsui, and Joseph Kennedy are circulating the below letter for their colleagues to sign on to. Today, we are asking your help in building support and sign-on’s to this letter by reaching out to your Representative and urge them to sign on. (Note: Members of Congress, not community advocates, are the targets for signing on to this letter.) TAKE ACTION
Will you take two minutes today to urge your Representative to support this letter urging a portion of the remaining COVID-19 funding be allocated to behavioral health providers? Below you will find the full “Dear Colleague” letter that you will be asking your Member to sign.
As always, thank you for all you do.
President and CEO
National Council for Behavioral Health
Dear Secretary Azar and Administrator Verma:
We are writing to express our deep concern about the devastating impact of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on providers of mental health and addiction treatment. We request that a portion of the emergency funding appropriated by Congress to the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund (PHSSEF) as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act be immediately allocated to community-based health care providers that comprise the public health safety net for mental health and addiction services. These providers are serving millions of people with serious mental illnesses and acute substance use disorders on the frontlines of this crisis. They are in desperate need of our support and additional resources to maintain and scale operations both in the immediate and long-term future.
There is considerable evidence that COVID-19 is already exacerbating the nation’s opioid epidemic as well the mental health crisis. Additionally, COVID-19 is taking a disproportionate toll on minority, poor and vulnerable populations. Within these communities, patients with serious mental illness and substance use disorder may be among the hardest hit. The anticipated influx of COVID-associated anxiety and depression, substance use, loneliness, and domestic violence, combined with an increased risk for contracting and transmitting COVID-19 among patients with underlying behavioral health conditions, are putting tremendous stress on our nation’s behavioral health infrastructure.
Community Behavioral Health Organizations (CBHOs) are projecting a nearly 50% loss in revenue attributable to the pandemic that is resulting in closed clinics, mass staff lays offs and large reductions in the number of patients served. Moreover, the National Governors Association (NGA) recently noted in a letter to Congress that mental health and substance use providers faced “collapse” without emergency Medicaid financing. Emergency allocations from the PHSSEF would be employed for sick leave and hazard pay as well as for the purchase of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), tele-mental health resources and related technology, staff training and technical support. Absent this funding, a radically reduced capacity of community-based, inpatient and outpatient providers will leave hundreds of thousands without access to mental health and addiction treatment, leading to an upsurge in hospital emergency department utilization.
The frontline providers of care for these highly vulnerable patient populations need help now. As Health and Human Services prepares to distribute the remaining $70 billion of the CARES Act emergency funding for provider relief, we urge you to utilize a methodology that supports mental health and substance use disorder providers and organizations so they can continue to provide essential care to those in need.
Thank you for your attention to this important matter.