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Congress Agrees on FY 2010 Spending Bills for Mental Illness Research & Services

December 10, 2009

Congress, this week, agreed on spending legislation for FY 2010 for a broad array of domestic discretionary spending, including funding for mental illness research, mental health services, housing and veterans programs. These bills cover funding for the current fiscal year which began on October 1, 2009. The Senate is expected to pass the bill over the weekend and it is anticipated that President Obama will sign the legislation before December 18, 2009. Included below are details on these programs.

National Institutes of Health (NIH)

The conference agreement includes $31.0 billion for NIH, a $691.8 million (2.3%) increase over the FY 2009 Omnibus Bill (HR 3288), and $250 million more than the President's request. This overall NIH spending level is below BOTH the original House and Senate proposals from earlier this year. The House approved bill included $31.3 billion for NIH, while the Senate Committee approved bill included $30.8 billion. 

This 2.3% increase will mean a projected $1.479 billion budget for the National Institutes of Mental Health.  This increase is extremely disappointing given that it is below previous proposals endorsed by the House & Senate. Furthermore, this figure is below the projected level of medical research inflation of 3.5%.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) 

The agreement made by Congress includes important increases for a number of critical priorities at SAMHSA.

The Center for Mental Health Services (CMHS) is slated to receive $1 billion, $19 million above the request by President Obama and $36 million above 2009 levels. Within CMHS, the conference agreement increases a number of key initiatives:

•$5 million increase for PATH state homelessness grants, boosting funding to $68 million, to provide an estimated 11,000 additional homeless and seriously mentally ill individuals with community-based support services; and
•$13 million increase for Children’s Mental Health, boosting funding to a $125.3 million; and 
•$7 million increase (doubling funding to $14 million) for the second year of a new program to co-locate primary care services in community mental health centers.
• Funding for the Mental Health Block Grant is frozen in the bill at $420.7 million, and the Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant is receiving a $20 million increase.  

Housing

Funding for housing programs include the following details:

• Section 811: $300 million for 2010, which is $50 million above 2009 levels.
• McKinney-Vento Homeless Programs: $1.865 billion, or $71 million above the President’s request, and $188 million above 2009 levels. 
• Veteran’s Affairs Supportive Housing (VASH): a new $75 million.
• Section 8: $18.2 billion, or $1.2 billion above 2009 levels, which would allow for 2.1 million vouchers.

Veterans

In a major victory for America’s veterans, the bill for the first time includes advance appropriations for the VA to ensure a stable and uninterrupted source of funding for medical care for veterans. For fiscal year 2011, the bill includes:

• $48.2 billion for VA medical programs; and
• $45.1 billion for the Veterans Health Administration (VHA), matching the President’s request and $4.1 billion above 2009 levels, for veterans medical care; and
• $4.6 billion for mental health care to treat the psychological wounds of returning combat veterans, including PTSD, matching the request and $300 million above 2009 levels. This also includes an additional $1 million to provide education debt relief as a hiring incentive for mental health professionals.

Social Security Disability Claims

FY 2010 includes language regarding SSA’s Limitation on Administrative Expenses (LAE) funding. The funding level agreed to is $11.4665 billion.  This is the level of funding proposed by both the House and Senate as well as what was recommended in the President's budget. This increase is an important step forward in addressing the enormous backlog of claims and appeals for SSI and SSDI benefits.

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