During the month of August, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) awarded grants through a variety of programs aimed at expanding access to services and training for youth mental health care and to reduce the number of overdose-related incidents across the country. These funds, summarized below, enhance state and local governments’ ability to prevent and treat mental illness and substance use disorders.
On August 27, HHS announced the release of roughly $74.2 million in grants through two programs aimed at strengthening youth mental health. The first, Project AWARE (Advancing Wellness and Resilience in Education), awarded $54.3 million in grant funding to 15 State Education Agencies (SEA) and two Native American Tribes. The majority of these funds ($36.5 million) were allocated by the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplementary Appropriations Act. Project AWARE works to build or expand coordination between SEAs, State Mental Health Agencies (SMHAs) and Local Education Agencies (LEAs), support mental health services for school aged youth through service connection, and train school personnel to detect and respond to mental health issues. Counties who are not direct recipients of Project Aware Grants, can partner with regional and state education agencies who received funds to enhance the mental health infrastructure in local schools.
The second program is a four-year grant titled the Comprehensive Community Mental Health Services for Children and Families Program (Children’s Mental Health Initiative). In total for the first year, HHS awarded $19.8 million to 12 recipients, which included two counties and two regional clinics. Grant recipients may use funds to support the implementation, expansion and integration of a system-of-care approach to mental health services, creating sustainable infrastructure across an array of entities to deliver community-based services. The total for the Children’s Mental Health Initiative Grant program’s four years will be up to $76.2 million. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) within HHS will administer the funds for both Project AWARE and the Children’s Mental Health Initiative.
Also on August 27, HHS awarded 24 grants through the Pediatric Mental Health Care Access Program, which was established by the American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act. The grants were administered through the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), with a total of approximately $10.7 million awarded to state health, behavioral health, family and social service agencies across the U.S. While counties are not primary recipients of the grant funding, county health entities may take part in regional networks within the program that are working to expand pediatric mental health care access by integrating telehealth services into pediatric care. Specifically, funding from this program assists with treating, diagnosing and referring children and youth with mental health conditions and substance use disorders.
Finally, earlier this month HHS announced that the Prevent Prescription Drug/Opioid Overdose Related Deaths (PDO) program awarded 13 grants totaling $11 million to state health departments. This grant program invests funding to train first responders and other key emergency personnel in order to reduce the number of overdose-related injuries or deaths in local communities. Although counties are not the primary recipients of PDO grants, local government can work with state health departments that received funds to implement a statewide comprehensive approach to address the opioid epidemic.
- NACo Policy Brief: Enhance Counties' Ability to Prevent and Treat Mental Illness and Substance Abuse Disorders
- NACo Policy Brief: Behavioral Health Matters to Counties
- NACo Blog: SAMHSA Releases $3 Billion in ARPA Funding for Mental Health and Substance Use Programs