On June 24, for the first time in nearly 30 years, Congress passed comprehensive bipartisan gun violence prevention legislation with the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (S. 2938). APA President Frank C. Worrell, PhD, commended the passage of legislation in a statement while emphasizing that more work needs to be done to address America’s gun violence public health crisis.
APA Services worked closely with key Senate offices as this bill was being drafted to ensure that gun violence is not erroneously conflated with mental illness and that mental health provisions included in the package reflect psychological science. APA members contributed to these efforts by sending nearly 3,000 messages to their members of Congress advocating for the bill’s passage.
The bill will fund local initiatives such as extreme risk protection order laws and crisis intervention programs. It will also close the “boyfriend loophole” by reinforcing firearms bans for domestic abusers and enhance the federal background check system for people under age 21 who attempt to purchase firearms.
The legislation also makes the following critical investments in mental health care and includes many of the association’s advocacy priorities:
- Expands Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics and increases funding for the Community Mental Health Services Block grant.
- Directs the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to update guidance on how schools can fully use Medicaid to support mental health programs and strengthens oversight of states’ implementation of Medicaid’s Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnostic and Treatment benefit.
- Provides millions of dollars in new funding for school-based mental health services through Project AWARE, as well as the National Child Traumatic Stress Initiative, including by setting aside $28 million for grants to support trauma care in school settings.
- Provides $1 billion to Department of Education grant programs that will grow the workforce of qualified school-based mental health professionals.
- Provides $1 billion for the Department of Education’s Student Support and Academic Enrichment (Title IV-A) program to support activities that improve school climate and conditions for student learning, such as social and emotional learning programs.
- Explicitly prohibits the use of any of the funding provided through Department of Education programs to be used for the purpose of arming or training school staff with dangerous weapons.
- Requires CMS to provide guidance to states on increasing access to behavioral health services through telehealth under Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).
- Provides $150 million to support implementation of the 9-8-8 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline.