Washington’s political theater in the early days of 2023 has already received a lot of attention. But the legislative achievements in December, as the curtain began to close on 117th Congress, stole the show.
Advocates for those who provide mental health and substance use treatment continue to celebrate one of the most meaningful sessions of Congress in recent memory. Why? Because the legislative gains achieved in December through the spending package will have a lasting impact on treatment, access to care and workforce issues, to name a few.
In no uncertain terms, 2022 provided our field with historic gains. After years of fiscal starvation, so many worthy programs finally received the resources necessary to help people with substance use and mental health challenges – youth, people of color, veterans, people in rural communities and more. Those resources will also help us retain workers and recruit more people to this amazing, though sometimes undervalued, field.
The timing is significant. According to the 2021 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, released January 4 of this year, about one in four adults had a mental illness, more than 16% of the population met the criteria for substance use disorder and nearly 94% of people with substance use disorder (SUD) didn’t receive any treatment in 2021.
Here is some of what Congress included in the year-end spending package:
Lawmakers also tucked some vitally important legislation in the year-end spending package, including:
If that’s all Congress achieved in 2022, it would represent a major accomplishment. But that isn’t a comprehensive list of their 2022 legislative achievements. In addition to the opportunities achieved through the year-end spending package, our field received a historic boost earlier in the year with passage of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act.
That new law will expand access to care and reduce the barriers that prevent many people from getting the treatment they need. Specifically, the new law will increase access to comprehensive mental health and substance use services through expansion of CCBHCs, telehealth services and in-school intervention programs, such as Mental Health First Aid (MHFA). It will provide additional funding for the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline, improving the capacity of our crisis care system.
It’s difficult to recall a more impactful session of Congress than the 117th that just concluded. It speaks to the importance of advocacy and the need for all of us to be engaged.
So, while the political theater of 2023 has received a lot of attention, Washington gave its finest performance in 2022. Now the stage is set for those who provide substance use and mental health treatment, and new opportunities await.