Biden administration seeks to expand 24/7 mental health care

WASHINGTON (AP) — The government on Tuesday announced plans to award millions of dollars in grants to expand 24-hour mental health and substance abuse care in more communities across the country.

“Today we’re talking about providing 24/7 crisis care assistance to Americans,” said Xavier Becerra, Secretary of Health and Human Services. “It’s something that was only available to a few in some places. But depending on your income and zip code, you could be out of luck. That’s going to change.”

There are more than 400 community behavior health clinics in 46 states that offer 24-hour care to every child or adult who walks through the door, even if they can’t afford to pay. The effort began in 2014, born out of bipartisan legislative years of Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan and Republican Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri.

The clinics, often run at the local level or by nonprofit organizations, struggle with patchy funding from the federal government, making it difficult to retain staff and pay for services. The Gun Violence Act, which President Joe Biden enacted after shooting rampages at a school in Uvalde, Texas, and a grocery store in Buffalo, New York, boosted state federal funding for the program.

Additionally, Biden’s COVID-19 relief plans have committed more than $1.2 billion to the centers. The clinics also look after privately insured people and offer a graduated tariff for those who are not insured.

Now the federal government is asking states to step up efforts around the clinics, offering $1 million in grants to up to 15 states starting next year to plan for center expansion. Ten of those states will then be selected in 2024 to receive more funding for their programs through Medicaid by securing federal grants at an increased rate. The goal is for 10 countries to join the program every two years until all 50 are involved.

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Nine states are already receiving higher Medicaid reimbursement rates for patients who seek help from community centers. In the other states, centers can receive money directly from the federal government — $300 million worth of grants were awarded in September.

Children as young as 4 have sought help at Arundel Lodge in Edgewater, Maryland since it opened a mental health and substance abuse emergency center in December with help from a $2 million federal grant. Area teachers and school counselors have called to get help for their students.

Doctors send patients who need immediate help to the clinic to avoid long waits at expensive, private rehabilitation centers. And police officers are now taking some people in crisis to the lodge instead of a jail cell or hospital.

The lodge’s emergency care is staffed with nurses, mental health specialists and peer counselors who help walk-ins develop treatment plans, managing director Mike Drummond said.

“On a walk-in basis, we can assess them, assess them, develop a treatment plan, and initiate treatment,” Drummond said. (AP) –

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