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Sandy Hook Families Joining Vice President Announcing $100 Million In Mental Health Funding

This afternoon, surrounded by families of victims of 12/14, Vice President Joe Biden is scheduled to announce that $100 million will be made available to increase access to mental health services and improve mental health facilities. The funding comes as part of the Obama Administration’s ongoing commitment to help individuals experiencing mental health problems.

The Vice President will discuss the new funding during a meeting at The White House with mental health advocates and the Newtown family members, according to a White House advance.

The funding will come from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Department of Agriculture (USDA).

HHS will issue a $50 million funding opportunity to help Community Health Centers establish or expand behavioral health services for people living with mental illness or addiction.

Community Health Centers can use these new funds, made available through the Affordable Care Act, for efforts such as hiring new mental health professionals and adding mental health and substance abuse disorder services the release states.

Additionally, USDA has set a goal of financing $50 million for the construction, expansion, or improvement of mental health facilities in rural areas over the next three years.

These funds, made available through the Department’s Community Facilities direct loan program, can be used to pay professional fees and put in place innovative tools such as telemedicine. This will allow additional mental health professionals to serve rural communities from a distance, according to the advance.

“Most behavioral health conditions are treatable, yet too many Americans are not able to get needed treatment,” said Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Administrator Mary K. Wakefield, PhD, RN.  “These new Affordable Care Act funds will expand the capacity of our network of community health centers to respond to the mental health needs in their communities.”

“These new funds will further the Department’s work to develop integrated primary and behavioral health care services to better meet the needs of people with mental health and substance use conditions,” said Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Administrator Pamela S. Hyde.

It is estimated these awards will support behavioral health expansion in approximately 200 existing health centers nationwide.   

The President’s Fiscal Year 2014 Budget includes a new $130 million initiative to help teachers recognize signs of mental illness in students and refer them to services, support innovative state-based programs to improve mental health outcomes for young people ages, and train 5,000 more mental health professionals. 

The White House said it is policy to not release the names of those attending in advance. It was also announced Tuesday that on Saturday, December 14, the President and First Lady will honor the lives and legacies of the children and educators lost at Sandy Hook Elementary School one year ago by observing a moment of silence. 

Following the announcement, Governor Dannel P. Malloy commended President Obama and VP Biden on making mental health a priority as states move to implement the Affordable Care Act.

"Choosing to invest in our nation’s mental health infrastructure is one of the wisest things we can do in our efforts to prevent acts of violence," Gov Malloy said. “As we approach the one year anniversary of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School, many questions remain for which we may never know the answers.

"But as we increase our focus on mental health," the governor concluded, "it’s important that we further discussions within our communities and schools to decrease the stigma and discrimination faced by individuals diagnosed with mental illness.”

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