Last week, Congress passed the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which includes measures to reduce gun violence, significant investment in mental health and telehealth resources, and funding for school-based mental health services and safety. President Joe Biden signed the bill into law on Saturday morning.
GNYHA has declared gun violence a public health crisis of tragic proportions and has called for specific interventions to stem this violence. We are pleased that Congress has finally taken a step towards greater gun safety and are encouraged by the bill’s mental health provisions. Our statement on gun violence prevention, originally issued after the 2018 mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, is available here.
The bill would enhance background checks by requiring an investigative period to review the juvenile and mental health records of gun purchasers younger than 21. It provides $750 million over five years to help states implement crisis intervention programs, or “red-flag laws,” which allow authorities to temporarily confiscate guns from people deemed dangerous. The bill would also ensure that convicted domestic violence abusers and individuals subject to domestic violence restraining orders are included in a Federal law that bars them from purchasing firearms, among other gun safety provisions.
Bipartisan Safer Communities Act legislative text and a one-pager are included. Key mental health provisions of the bill are summarized below.
- Expands the existing Medicaid Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic (CCBHC) demonstration program to all states to increase access to community-based behavioral health services, allowing up to 10 new states to opt into the program every two years
- Currently, more than 430 CCBHCs are operating in 42 states through the demonstration program and state-level initiatives. New York and New Jersey are among the states that have been selected for the CCBHC demonstration.
- Requires the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to provide guidance to states on how they can increase access to behavioral health services through telehealth under Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program
- Helps states to implement, enhance, and expand school-based health programs under Medicaid through updated guidance, technical assistance, and state planning grants
- Appropriates $80 million for the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Pediatric Mental Health Care Access grant program to support pediatric mental health care and expands teleconsults into emergency departments and schools
- Appropriates $60 million over five years for training in mental health for primary care clinicians who treat children and youth through the HRSA Primary Care Training and Enhancement Program
- Appropriates $120 million over four years for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to prepare and train community members and first responders to assist individuals with mental disorders
- Provides $250 million for SAMHSA’s Community Mental Health Block Grant program, which provides states with funding to enhance community mental health services