E&C GOP Presses SAMHSA for Details on Covid Spending, Suicide Hotline Rollout, Support for Treating Serious Mental Illness, and New Office of Recovery

Washington, D.C. — House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), Subcommittee on Health Chair Brett Guthrie (R-KY), and Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Chair Morgan Griffith (R-VA) sent a letter to Dr. Miriam Delphin-Rittmon, the Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Administrator of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), requesting information related to SAMHSA’s COVID-19 supplemental funding, its implementation of the 9-8-8 suicide hotline, to what extent it provides support for treatment for serious mental illness, and its new Office of Recovery. 

“Mental health conditions—such as anxiety disorders, mood disorders, and schizophrenia—affect a substantial number of adults in the United States. For example, in 2020, SAMHSA estimated that 53 million adults in the United States (21 percent) had any mental illness, including approximately 14 million adults (5.6 percent) who had serious mental illness. Additionally, the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and government response to the COVID-19 pandemic—such as increased social isolation, stress, and unemployment—have intensified concerns that more people are affected by mental health conditions and that people with underlying mental health conditions could experience increased severity of those conditions,” the Chairs wrote. 

The members asked for information and answers to their questions, which include the below, by April 18, 2023: 

  • How much funding was provided to SAMHSA from COVID-19 supplemental funding? What accomplishments would SAMHSA attribute strictly because of the supplemental funding? 
  • How much of this supplemental funding has been obligated? 
  • How much of this supplemental funding has been expended? What was the supplemental funding spent on? 
  • In April 2022 SAMHSA awarded nearly $105 million in grants to states and territories for the transition to 988 and to support call centers. In addition, in December 2021, SAMHSA announced $177 million to support strengthening and expanding the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline network operations and infrastructure. Notwithstanding this total of $282 million funding for 988 during the last fiscal year, the nationwide suicide hotline crashed late last year. Regarding 988, why did SAMHSA seek an increase in funding to further expand 988 after having spent $105 million to expand 988 in December 2021? Why was there an outage on 988 after all the financial support? 
  • Given the intensity of SAMHSA’s focus on implementing 988, we are concerned about the adequacy of SAMHSA’s efforts to provide support for clinical treatment to patients with serious mental illness (SMI). How much money has SAMHSA invested in clinical treatments to patients with SMI? 

CLICK HERE to read the letter.