HHS announces $15 million in funding opportunities for behavioral health in nursing homes

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The Department of Health and Human Services is announcing a funding opportunity of nearly $15 million for a three-year federal grant to establish a Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) program meant to strengthen behavioral healthcare for residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.

Funded by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the program will establish a Center of Excellence for Building Capacity in Nursing Facilities to Care for Residents with Behavioral Health Conditions – called th “Center for Excellence” for short.

The goal of the Center of Excellence is to improve overall healthcare in nursing homes and other facilities by providing direct consultation to staff regarding awareness, reducing stigmatization and building knowledge and skills for more effective care of residents.

Ultimately, the task is to strengthen and sustain effective behavioral health practices, and achieve better outcomes for residents dealing with serious mental illness, emotional disturbance or substance abuse issues, or a combination thereof. It will also strive to provide more access to evidence-based training and technical assistance focused on mental health disorder identification, treatment and recovery support services.


The program will be funded with CMS’ Civil Money Penalty (CMP) funds, which come from collected CMPs that are imposed against nursing homes and other long-term care facilities when they are not in substantial compliance with one or more Medicare and Medicaid program participation requirements for long-term care facilities. 

These funds may be reinvested to support activities that benefit nursing home residents and that protect or improve their quality of care or quality of life.

Funding of up to $4,962,223 each year for three years will be awarded to one grantee later this year.

CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure said that making behavioral health a priority in nursing homes “supports a person’s whole emotional and mental well-being, promotes person-centered behavioral healthcare, and advances our CMS Behavioral Health Strategy.”


Strengthening access to mental health services has been a focus for the current administration. In March, the Department of Health and Human Services, through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and the Office of Minority Health, announced it would provide close to $35 million in funding toward strengthening and expanding mental health services and suicide prevention programs for children and young adults.

Of the total, $9.2 million comes from the American Rescue Plan.

The announcement came on the heels of HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra’s recent National Tour to Strengthen Mental Health, in which he sought to hear from Americans about their mental health struggles. The tour was part of a broader administration effort to engage with local leaders to bolster community mental health and crisis care systems.

That same month, President Biden submitted a budget to Congress that supports full parity between physical health and behavioral healthcare, including mental health and substance-use-disorder care. The budget provides $697 million in 988 and Behavioral Health Services, which will expand access to crisis-care services for people with suicidal ideations or who are experiencing a behavioral-health crisis. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline will transition from a 10-digit number to 9-8-8 in July.

The budget also includes new mandatory investments totaling $51.7 billion over 10 years to improve behavioral health. This includes $7.5 billion for a new Mental Health Transformation Fund for mental-health workforce development and service expansion. It gives $35.4 billion to improve mental health access in Medicaid. It also includes $4.1 billion to permanently extend funding for Community Mental Health Centers.

It gives $1.2 billion to improve access to behavioral-health services in the private insurance market, including a proposal to require coverage of three behavioral health visits with no enrollee cost-sharing.

Another $3.5 billion would improve Medicare mental health coverage by covering three behavioral health visits per year without cost-sharing, revising the criteria for psychiatric hospital terminations from Medicare, eliminating the 190-day lifetime limit on psychiatric hospital services, and applying the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act to Medicare.

Twitter: @JELagasse
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