Congress is facing a busy summer before the August recess begins. Among the many items on the agenda that leadership wants to address is the fiscal year 2023 appropriations process, which Congress needs to complete by the end of September. There is bipartisan agreement that funding bills should be passed by the end of the fiscal year to avoid a government shutdown, but there are partisan divisions over funding levels for specific programs.
NBCC and a coalition of other organizations are working to secure a funding increase for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services (SAMHSA) Minority Fellowship Program (MFP), which provides scholarships for mental health providers who will practice in underserved communities. The program is currently funded at $16.2 million for FY 2022. Due in large part to the work of NBCC and our coalition partners, including the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, the American Psychological Association, and several other organizations, there has been widespread bipartisan support for the program. Congress has appropriated increases for the MFP during several of the past fiscal years, and we are working to ensure funding that will allow for additional students to participate in the program.
Along with the annual appropriations process, Congress is also working to reauthorize mental health workforce programs that are due to expire at the end of this year. Authorization is the process whereby Congress grants the legal authority for a program to operate and is separate from annual appropriations. The MFP, along with many other programs under the jurisdiction of SAMHSA, the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), and other federal agencies, was last authorized in 2016 with the passage of the 21st Century Cures Act. Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) and Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) recently introduced legislation that would reauthorize the MFP through 2027 at $25 million after staff consulted with NBCC and other organizations. The House Energy and Commerce Committee is also working on legislation to reauthorize the program.
There is public support for increased investment in programs like the MFP and others such as the Behavioral Health Workforce Education and Training Program, and NBCC and our coalition partners will continue to advocate for adequate mental health funding for these programs.