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Congress Begins Work on FY 2009 Spending Bills

June 27, 2008

This week the House and Senate Appropriations Committees began work on spending bills for FY 2009 – including the budgets for the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).  These bills restore a range of cuts proposed by the President in his FY 2009 budget.  While some of these bills will continue moving through the House and Senate in July, it is likely that final action on these appropriations bills could be put off until next year.

NIMH & SAMHSA

The FY 2009 budgets for NIMH and SAMHSA are part of the Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations bill.  The Senate Appropriations Committee cleared its version of the bill yesterday.  It provides $30.255 billion for the overall National Institutes of Health (NIH), an increase of $1.025 billion (3.5%) over the FY 2008 funding level and the President's FY 2009 budget request.  The House version provides $30.380 billion for NIH, an increase of $1.150 billion (3.9%) over FY 2008 and the President's budget, and $125 million more than the Senate bill.  These increases for NIH are long overdue and critical for reversing the current erosion of research funding at both NIH and NIMH.    

For FY 2009, the President proposed $1.407 billion for scientific and clinical research at NIMH.  This is only a $2 million increase above the FY 2008 level, far below the level needed to keep pace with medical research inflation.  Since 2003, the end of the 5-year doubling of NIH funding, NIMH has lost nearly 15% of its purchasing power as a result of flat budgets.  If this trend is not reversed, the consequences for advancing mental illness research will be devastating.

For the Center for Mental Health Services (CMHS) at SAMHSA, the Senate bill restores a range of cuts that had been proposed by the Bush Administration.  Overall, CMHS is funded at $953.3 million in the House bill and $930.4 million in the Senate bill.  This includes level funding for the Mental Health Block Grant ($421 million) and the Childrens Mental Health Program ($102.3 million).  The PATH program (outreach and engagement for homeless individuals with mental illness) would receive a $6.4 million increase under both bills (boosting funding to $59.7 million.  For CMHS, most of the increase above the President’s request is in the Programs of Regional and National Significance (PRNS) account.  These are various training and services demonstration programs.  Under the House bill, $22.8 million in proposed reductions are restored, for a total $322.1 million.   This includes important increases for services in permanent supportive housing for homeless individuals with mental illness and co-occurring substance abuse disorders. 

Finally, both the House and Senate bills add critical new resources for the Social Security Administration (SSA) to address the current backlog in claims for the eligibility for its disability programs SSI and SSDI.  The Senate bill includes $10.4 billion for the administrative expenses of the SSA, $50 million over the President’s budget request and $632 million more than FY 2008.  This will allow SSA to continue efforts to reduce the backlog of disability claims, as well as SSA reviews current disability cases to ensure beneficiaries remain eligible for Social Security, known as CDRs.

Click here to view NAMI’s testimony on the FY 2009 Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations bill

Veterans Funding

On June 12, the House Appropriations Committee approved a separate $118.7 billion bill funding the Department of Veterans Affairs for FY 2009.  This includes $40.7 billion for the Veterans Health Administration (VHA), a $1.6 billion increase above current year funding.  This includes $3.8 billion in specialty health services, including mental health and substance abuse treatment.  The House Appropriations bill also expands oversight of the treatment VA provides for veterans with mental illness, PTSD, substance abuse and suicide prevention.  In addition, $58 million is provided for trauma and mental health research.  Finally, the House bill also funds an additional 1,400 disability claims processors in the VA. 

 


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