Statement on the Mental Health Related Provisions in the FY2014 Omnibus Appropriations Bill

Sandy Hook Promise today released the following statement from Nelba Marquez-Greene, SHP's Director of Mental Health and Relational Wellness, on the FY2014 Omnibus Appropriations bill just passed by the House of Representatives, to be considered by the Senate shortly:

"Mental illness does not cause gun violence, in fact, people with mental illness are more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators. But mental illness is more than an occasional factor in gun violence, most frequently in school shootings like the one that stole the lives of our loved ones, suicides and other incidents of gun violence as well. A holistic solution is needed to address the problem of gun violence and looking at mental illness and general mental wellness are critical parts of the solution.

Since our founding exactly one year ago, Sandy Hook Promise has believed in and advocated for increased attention to promoting mental wellness and increasing early intervention to prevent mental illness that might lead to violent behavior. These are measures that impact all communities. No zip code is exempt. We have worked closely with the White House and both houses of Congress, having many meaningful, personal conversations with members on both sides of the aisle, to stress the importance of focusing on mental health alongside gun safety. We are extremely pleased with the $115 million included in the omnibus funding bill for the President's Now is the Time violence prevention initiative. We applaud the efforts of Senate Appropriations Chair Barbara Mikulski to ensure the inclusion of this funding in the Omnibus.

This funding will advance critical prevention efforts, providing training to teachers, providing services to students and young people at risk, and increasing the availability of trained behavioral health professionals.

"This is the first step in a long road but we go forward in 2014 with hope, knowing that we have been heard, and as a result, lives may be saved."

Below is a summary of the mental health provisions in the FY2014 Omnibus funding bill:

  • The bill provides $15 million for Mental Health First Aid grants, which will allow teachers to reach 750,000 students with the goal of recognizing those with mental illness early and referring them to treatment. This program has been championed in the Senate by Senators Begich and Ayotte.
  • The bill provides $40 million for Project Aware, which will provide 20 grants to State Education Authorities (SEAs) for comprehensive programs in 1,000-1,500 schools to get students with mental health issues referred to needed services.
  • The bill provides $40 million for behavioral health workforce training, which will add an estimated 4,375 social workers, psychologists, therapists and other health professionals to the health workforce.
  • The bill provides $20 million for programs targeting young adults at high risk of mental illness.
  • Additionally, the Omnibus bill provides $484 million for the Mental Health Block Grant, an increase of $47 million. For the first time, the bill includes language directing States to use 5 percent of their Block Grants for early intervention programs for those with serious mental illness such as psychosis. Decreasing the delay between the first onset of symptoms and people receiving the help they need shows tremendous promise.
  • The bill provides $46 million for the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, an increase of $2.7 million. This network of university, hospital, and community-based centers was established to improve access to care, treatment, and services for children and adolescents exposed to traumatic events.
  • The bill provides $65 million for suicide prevention programs, an increase of $10 million. This includes a total of $48 million for the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act programs.