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June 17, 2002 Contact: HHS Press Office
(202) 690-6343


Overview: Each year, an estimated 44 million Americans experience diagnosable mental disorders. Such disorders can interfere with people's normal daily activities, from work and school to sleeping and caring for oneself and others. About one in four affected adults and one in five children and adolescents in need of mental health services receives care. Overall, mental illness in the United States costs an estimated $170 billion each year in health care expenditures and lost productivity.

The stigma of mental illness often discourages patients from seeking care despite the existence of new drugs and therapies that have vastly improved the chances for effective treatment and recovery. Without access to necessary and effective quality care, far too many Americans will live with untreated mental illness that too often can lead to homelessness, drug and alcohol addiction or incarceration.

In April 2002, President Bush issued the charter for his New Freedom Commission on Mental Health and also announced his support for legislation to eliminate disparities in the coverage of mental health benefits. The new commission will develop recommendations to improve the coordination and quality of services of the nation's mental health service delivery system. For more information, see

HHS plays a critical role in the nation's efforts to prevent, diagnose and treat mental illness. Through the Medicare and Medicaid programs alone, HHS spends more than $17 billion each year on beneficiaries' mental health care. In addition, HHS agencies also support research into mental health and treatments, take steps to expand access to quality services and work to reduce the stigma associated with mental illness. Overall, HHS will spend an estimated $2.5 billion in discretionary funds to address mental health issues during fiscal year 2002 -- including about $1.6 billion in research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Information about mental health research and treatment is available at; information about mental health services is available at


HHS is committed to ensuring the availability of effective services for children, adolescents and adults experiencing or at-risk for mental illnesses. Within HHS, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) serves as the focal point for efforts to expand and improve the quality of services available in communities around the country. HHS efforts include:

Mental Health Services Block Grants. SAMHSA's Mental Health Services Block Grant supports state and territorial governments' efforts for a broad range of programs - chosen by the states themselves -- to serve adults with serious mental illness and children with serious emotional disturbances. The program's fiscal year 2002 budget totals $433 million. (See "block grants" at

Promoting Community-based Services. In fiscal year 2002, SAMHSA will award almost $230 million in grants to identify and implement services focused on issues such as employment, school violence, homelessness, consumer empowerment, HIV/AIDS and the development of culturally competent, integrated care for people of all ages with or at risk for mental illnesses and the families. (See "funding" at

Encouraging Effective Medicaid Coverage. Millions of Americans with severe mental illnesses rely on the Medicaid program to pay for the care and treatment they receive. To encourage states to make the most effective services available to treat mental health needs, HHS' Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) provides ongoing guidance to state officials on how to make optimal use of Medicaid funding for mental health services. See

Serving Homeless People with Mental Illness. HHS agencies support outreach, housing, treatment, employment and other needs of homeless individuals with mental illnesses, many of whom also have substance abuse disorders. SAMHSA provides $39 million to states to serve homeless persons. See

Mental Health and Disaster. SAMHSA works with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to ensure people in federal disaster areas receive immediate crisis counseling and ongoing support. HHS provided economic support and personnel to make available short- and long-term mental health services to areas most directly affected by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Training Mental Health Professionals. HHS' Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) works to recruit and train clinical psychologists, clinical social workers, psychiatric nurse specialists, licensed counselors, and marriage and family therapists to improve access to mental health services in underserved communities. In addition, SAMHSA supports programs to increase the availability of mental health professionals of different racial and ethnic backgrounds.

Safeguarding Legal Rights. As part of the President's New Freedom Initiative, HHS works to help people with mental illness and other disabilities move from institutional settings -- including the criminal justice system -- to community-based settings. HHS' Office for Civil Rights engages in outreach, technical assistance, public education and enforcement activities to safeguard the rights of people with mental illness and other disabilities to receive services in the most integrated setting appropriate to their needs. SAMHSA's Protection and Advocacy for Individuals with Mental Illness Program provides grants to states to investigate allegations of human and civil rights violations involving people residing in or recently discharged from inpatient mental facilities.

Eliminating Discrimination and Stigma. SAMHSA has ongoing campaigns on children's mental health, school violence, and a national awareness campaign aimed at reducing the stigma of mental illness. SAMHSA also manages the National Mental Health Information Center, accessible through a toll-free line, 1-800-789-2647.


HHS supports a broad range of evidence-based programs that are gender- and culturally-competent and responsive to the mental health service needs of Americans of all ages.

Services for Children. SAMHSA's Comprehensive Community Mental Health Services for Children and their Families program supports the development of community-based, family-centered systems of care to meet the mental health and other service needs of children with serious emotional disturbances and their families.

Preventing Youth Violence. HHS and the departments of Education and Justice support Safe Schools/Healthy Students, a $185 million initiative providing grants to 97 school districts to work with local mental health and law enforcement agencies to promote healthy child development and prevent violent behaviors. HHS' Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also maintains the National Youth Violence Prevention Resource Center to provide information about youth violence and suicide. See or call 1-866-723-3968.

Older Americans and Mental Health. HHS' Administration on Aging supports grant programs to expand the availability of diagnostic and support services for people with Alzheimer's disease, their families and their caregivers and to educate the elderly, health care professionals and other service providers about the signs, symptoms and risk factors for depression.

Serving people with HIV/AIDS. SAMHSA is developing and assessing AIDS-specific, mental health education and training for traditional and nontraditional mental health services. In addition, HRSA's HIV Multiple Diagnosis Initiative identifies and responds to the personal needs of people with HIV, including mental health status and substance abuse problems.

American Indian and Alaska Native mental health issues. HHS' Indian Health Service works with tribes, tribal organizations, other HHS agencies and the departments of Interior, Justice and Education to enable tribes and tribal organizations to develop innovative strategies to provide behavioral health and education services. See


Primarily through NIH, HHS invests in a wide array of research related to mental health and disorders, including research into basic sciences, clinical treatments and health services. These efforts are helping to better diagnose, treat and ultimately prevent disabling mental disorders. In fiscal year 2002, NIH will spend an estimated $1.6 billion on mental health research and related efforts -- mostly at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). Ongoing research includes:

Understanding the Causes of Mental Disorders. NIMH funds basic science and biomedical research to better understand the causes of mental disorders. These efforts include studies looking at genes that may predispose people to certain disorders and research into the brain circuitry responsible for producing symptoms of mental illness.

Clinical Trials. NIMH sponsors long-term clinical trials that are identifying new effective treatments for people of all ages with mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, depression, Alzheimer's disease and bipolar disorder. See

Guiding mental health policy. Since 1999, NIMH has been collecting national data on the prevalence and duration of mental illnesses and on the kinds of treatments most often used to treat them. The study involves more than 10,000 people and will inform national policy on mental health and illness.


Note: All HHS press releases, fact sheets and other press materials are available at

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Last revised: July 11, 2002