Congress Begins Action on FY 2001 Spending Bills for Research and Services
May 11 2000
Yesterday, the House and Senate Appropriations Committees began action on the Presidents FY 2001 budget request for the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and the Center for Mental Health Services (CMHS). These programs cover mental illness research and services, and include nearly all federal spending on research and services that are part of the massive Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Subcommittee appropriations bill. Despite the fact that the federal budget is in surplus, spending for the discretionary program under the Labor-HHS bill are subject to strict budget caps. Because of these limits, it is very difficult for Congress to enact all of the increases sought after by the President for key political priorities such as education. As a result, the White House has already threatened to veto both the House and Senate bills. As in past years, it is likely that the final spending allocations under the Labor-HHS bill will not be decided until this coming fall.
For mental illness research and services there are important contrasts between the House and Senate bills. These contrasts are due in part to the differences between the overall spending allocations between the two bills--the Senate bill has an allocation that is $4.3 billion more than the House bill. This is most apparent when comparing funding for scientific research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), where the Senate bill increased spending by $2.7 billion, $1.7 billion more than the House bill, and $1 billion more than the President's request. As a result, the increase for NIMH in the Senate bill is substantially more than the House. The Senate bill recommends an increase of $143 million for NIMH, a nearly 14% increase, up to $1.118 billion. The NIMH FY 2000 budget was $978.4 million. By contrast, the House increased NIMH by only 4%, too slightly above $1 billion.
Overall, the budget for CMHS receives a modest increase in both the House and Senate bills, but in different areas. For example, the House bill fully funds the President's recommended increase for the Mental Health Block Grant of $60 million above the FY 2000 level of $356 million (bringing funding up to $416 million. By contrast, the Senate bill increases the Mental Health Block Grant by only $10 million (up to $366 million). Instead, the Senate bill directs an additional $50 million to the CMHS Knowledge, Development & Application (KDA) program for school violence prevention. This would bring total spending for the CMHS school violence initiative up to $90 million. The House bill would actually trim the CMHS KDA program by more than $4 million.
Other CMHS programs receive either a freeze or a modest increase under both bills. The PATH program is increased by $5 million in the Senate bill (up to $36.9 million) and is frozen in the House bill. The Children's Mental Health Program is increased by $4 million in both bills (up to $86.8 million). Finally, the Protection and Advocacy (PAIMI) program is increased by $1 million in the Senate bill (up to $25.9 million) and is frozen in the House bill.
Both the House and Senate Labor-HHS Subcommittees declined to separately fund the Clinton Administration's $30 million request for "Targeted Capacity Expansion". This initiative would have directed funds to services in "non mental health settings" for persons without a severe mental illness diagnosis to foster "health families and communities."
Over the coming weeks, the House and Senate Labor- HHS bills will be moving through committee and onto the full House and Senate. As this process goes on, the bill is certain to be caught up in election year differences over political issues such as education spending and as well as threats of a presidential veto. It is likely that a final Labor-HHS bill will not be resolved until shortly before FY 2001 begins on October 1.
For its part, NAMI will continue to advocate for:
- Significant increases for research spending at the NIMH with all increases directed toward basic scientific and clinical research on the most severe and disabling mental illnesses.
- Increases in CMHS programs that focus on severe mental illness, such as the Mental Health Block Grant and PATH, with specific direction that States prioritize investment in evidence-based approaches such as PACT.