When it comes to mental health, one size does not fit all. So the Biden administration and Congress have been funding different ways to get care to the people who need it most.
"My interest often is creating multiple entryways into services and supports, because we know people are going to enter and access behavioral health by different doorways, you know, depending upon their life circumstance, and their needs, or transportation even,” said Dr. Miriam Delphin-Rittmon, the assistant secretary for mental health and substance use.
Finding mental health services can be a daunting task, and Dr. Delphin-Rittmon said the new 988 suicide and crisis hotline is already having a positive impact.
"A person can be connected to a trained, you know, compassionate counselor who can help connect them and talk with them around what they're experiencing, and then connect them to other services and supports if needed,” said Delphin-Rittmon.
One way the federal government is trying to expand access to services is by funding certified community behavioral health clinics, or CCBHCs.
"CCBHCs provide a broad range of services, so mental health services, substance use services, linkage to primary care and related services. They provide crisis support, recovery support. They're required in fact, to offer a broad range of wraparound services and supports. And they're available 24 hours a day, regardless of an individual's ability to pay,” said Delphin-Rittmon.
Wraparound services provide accountability and continued support beyond a patient’s appointment. Sen. Bill Cassidy, a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, told Newsy those services can be crucial, especially for young people experiencing their first mental health crisis.
"If you can interrupt that cycle downward by these wraparound services, you're going to change generationally, that person and every person who comes after. Imagine the young mom, 25, who has her first episode, the profound effect upon her, her marriage, her children, by extension, her grandchildren cannot be underestimated," said Sen. Cassidy.
In 2017, eight states established the first CCBHCs, and now there are over 400 clinics across 42 states.
But the country still has a shortage of therapists and counselors, and that was amplified during the pandemic. The quick expansion of telehealth helped fill the gap, but it left out some rural Americans without access to high-speed internet. Cassidy says recently passed legislation will help the problem.
"In the bipartisan infrastructure bill, there were those $65 billion allocated to make sure that every American has access to high-speed internet. Louisiana just got the first check cut from that fund. And I'm told by our governor that once the company signs a contract, within two years, they'll be providing that service," said Sen. Cassidy.
Cassidy is also working across the aisle with Sen. Chris Murphy to pass a bill reauthorizing funding for a number of federal mental health programs. The current funding, passed in 2016, is due to expire at the end of the month. But Cassidy is optimistic Congress will pass new funding before the end of the year.