What Does the President's Budget Mean for Mental Health?


White House

The federal budget for the U.S. government is determined yearly and outlines the amount of money that will be spent on different expenses in the upcoming year. So why is it important to know what a budget proposes to spend on programs related to mental health? Because it shows how your elected officials value investment in mental health programs, supports and research.

On March 4, the White House released President Barack Obama’s proposed budget for the federal government. It contains specific proposals for a $23 million increase for mental illness research and $130 million in additional funding for early intervention and mental health workforce development. This is a proposed budget to congress with how the president would spend the money for 2015. Congress will be working on their version of the budget as well.

Detailed below are some of the Obama Administration’s 2015 requests for mental illness research, services, supportive housing and veterans’ programs.

National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)

The President is requesting a $23 million increase for NIMH for 2015. In addition, the President’s Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative would receive a $40 million boost, up to $100 million. The BRAIN Initiative is a multi-agency collaborative with a number of foundations designed to unleash new technologies and undertake basic mapping of circuits and neurons in the most complex organ in the human body.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)

The President is requesting $3.6 billion for SAMHSA, $63.2 million below the 2014 level. At the same time, a targeted number of mental health priorities would receive important increases. Among these are the President’s “Now is the Time” initiative for early intervention, mental health awareness and workforce development. For 2015, $130 million is being sought for the following priorities:

  • $55 million for Project AWARE (Advancing Wellness and Resilience in Education), with $15 million set aside for Mental Health First Aid, which will train teachers, coaches, school counselors and others that interact with adolescents in how to recognize mental illness and refer young people to treatment.
  • $50 million to train 5,000 new mental health professionals to serve students and young adults.
  • $20 million for Healthy Transitions, which is a program to support young families and assist them in navigating the public mental health system.
  • $5 million to support a national anti-stigma campaign.

The budget proposes the same amount of funding for the Mental Health Block Grant as 2014 which is $484 million. The Mental Health Block Grant is dedicated to building and supporting the community-based public mental health system across the country. The President is also proposing to continue the new 5 percent set aside in the Block Grant program started by Congress in 2014 for early identification and early intervention for first break psychosis. PATH (outreach and engagement for homeless individuals with mental illness) proposed funding is level at $65 million.

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)

There is some good news in the President’s budget for supportive housing programs that serve people with mental illness and other significant disabilities including the increases in funding outlined below.

  • $34 million increase in the HUD Section 811 program with $25 million set aside for new Section 811 Project-Based Rental Assistance (PRA) units which support the lowest income people with long-term disabilities to live independently in the community.
  • $301 million increase in funding for McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance programs, which provides federal money for homeless shelter programs.
  • $75 million for 10,000 additional VASH (Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing) vouchers to end veteran homelessness.

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)

Overall, the President is requesting $163.9 billion, or a 6.5 percent increase over the 2014 budget, for veteran services. The VA projects it will spend $7.2 billion for mental health treatment. In 2015, $1.6 billion is requested for programs to prevent or reduce homelessness, including:

  • $500 million for Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) to promote secure and stable housing.
  • $374 million for the HUD-VASH program wherein VA provides case management services for at-risk veterans and their families and HUD provides permanent housing through its Housing Choice Voucher program.
  • $253 million in grant and payments that support temporary housing provided by community-based organizations.
  • $312 million is requested to address the massive VA claims backlog.

So what happens next? Both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate will be working on their proposed budgets. They will then come together to work out the differences in their budgets before it is sent back to the President. Sign up to receive NAMI Action Alerts to stay informed and advocate for mental health to Congress and the White House.