SAMHSA Reorients Block Grant Programs

The new approach aims the Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grants and the Community Mental Health Services Block Grants to aid millions of currently uninsured Americans who will be covered beginning in 2014 because of the Affordable Care Act.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration announced a new approach April 11 for its Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grants and Community Mental Health Services Block Grants that will direct the money for four purposes, in light of the federal health care reform law that is now in effect. States and territories will be able to use block grant dollars for prevention, treatment, recovery, and other services that supplement services covered by Medicaid, Medicare and private insurance.

The agency said this means states will have to reach beyond the populations they have traditionally served with this grant money, form partnerships, and design collaborative plans for health information systems.

Grant funds will be directed to these four purposes: 1) to fund priority treatment and support services for individuals without insurance or who cycle in and out of health insurance coverage; (2) to fund priority treatment and support services not covered by Medicaid, Medicare or private insurance offered through the exchanges and that demonstrate success in improving outcomes and/or supporting recovery; (3) to fund universal, selective, and targeted prevention activities and services; and (4) to collect performance and outcome data to determine the ongoing effectiveness of behavioral health prevention, treatment, and recovery support services and to plan the implementation of new services on a nationwide basis.

States will be allowed to submit a joint plan for both grant programs and won't have to submit an annual plan. The new application allows them to submit a two-year plan for FY2012 and 2014.

"Changes in health care delivery structures, rapid adoption of health information technology, scientific advances in prevention and treatment services, growing understanding of recovery, and implementation of the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act and the Affordable Care Act will greatly enhance access to prevention, treatment, and recovery support services nationwide," said SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde. "These changes also present opportunities to establish the role of the block grants as critical underpinnings of the public substance abuse and mental health service systems, drivers of quality and innovation, and essential resources for transforming health care in America, especially in difficult economic times."

From now on, both programs will be administered consistently across separate SAMHSA centers, which has not been the case up to now, according to SAMHSA's notice. States will be allowed to submit a joint plan for the Mental Health Services Block Grant and the Substance Abuse and Prevention and Treatment Block Grant. States will no longer be required to submit an annual plan. The new application allows States to submit a two-year plan for FY 2012 and 2014.

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