Congress Passes 21st Century Cures Act

Last week Congress passed H.R. 34, the “21st Century Cures Act,” which includes provisions related to criminal justice, mental health and addiction. The bill passed the House with a 392-26 vote and the Senate with a 94-5 vote. It now awaits the president’s signature.

As reported by The National Association of Counties (NACo):

Some of the provisions will help counties by:

  • Reducing the number of people with mental illness in jails: By reauthorizing the Mentally Ill Offender Treatment and Crime Reduction Act (MIOTCRA), the bill will support local efforts to decrease mental illness in jails through a broad range of activities, including jail diversion programs, mental health courts, in-jail treatments and transitional services and crisis intervention training. Through the Stepping Up Initiative, counties are already working to reduce the estimated 2 million individuals with serious mental illnesses who are admitted to 3,100 local jails each year. This has been a long-standing NACo priority.
  • Providing community-based behavioral health services: By reauthorizing the Community Mental Health Services (CMHS) and Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment (SAPT) block grants, the bill will continue to allow counties, through 750 behavioral health authorities and community providers, to deliver direct behavioral health services to those with mental health conditions and substance abuse disorders. While provisions to reform the mental health system are weaker than in previous stand-alone bills, the legislation still contains some county priorities for behavioral health reform, including strengthening the behavioral health workforce and enhancing the implementation of mental health parity. Mental health reform is a top priority for NACo.
  • Combating the opioid epidemic: By authorizing $1 billion over two years for state grants to supplement opioid abuse prevention and treatment activities, lawmakers have taken a significant step in efforts to end the opioid epidemic. While this is a positive first step, until Congress appropriates funds for these bills, local opioid programs will not receive additional federal support. The appropriation of significant funding for local opioid programs was one of the recommendations made to federal leaders in a report recently released by NACo’s Task Force on the Opioid Epidemic, jointly launched this year with the National League of Cities.

NACo notes concerns that over half of the $6.3 billion package could be offset by future cuts to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Prevention and Public Health Fund (PPHF). This fund helps more than 1,900 county public health departments.

Previous Coverage on Conduit Street: U.S. House to Vote on Health/Justice Package with County Impacts