MHA Analysis Details Devastating Impact of Sequestration on People Living with Mental Health, Substance Use Conditions | Mental Health America

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MHA Analysis Details Devastating Impact of Sequestration on People Living with Mental Health, Substance Use Conditions

Mental Health America Analysis Details Devastating Impact of Sequestration on People Living with Mental Health, Substance Use Conditions

Would Put Lives of Hundreds of Thousands of Children and Families at Risk

CONTACT: Steve Vetzner, (703) 797-2588 or

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (October 4, 2012)—Mental Health America today released an analysis demonstrating the devastating impact “sequestration” would have on programs and services for people living with mental health and substance use conditions.

Sequestration is the process of making automatic budget cuts to federal government programs. The sequester was included as a budget reduction enforcement mechanism in the Budget Control Act of 2011, which had directed a “Super Committee” to find $1.2 trillion in savings over 10 years in both defense and non-defense discretionary spending. Because the committee failed to reach a deal, automatic cuts of between 8 and 11 percent will take effect on January 2, 2013, unless Congress passes legislation to postpone it or finds other ways to reduce the federal deficit.

These cuts would be further exacerbated if the budget approach advocated by Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan were to be enacted. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities recently estimated that their plan, which would exempt the military budget from sequestration, would result in a 22 percent cut to domestic discretionary spending.

The Mental Health America analysis finds that sequestration would devastate critical programs administered by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) that protect youth and families, including children’s mental health services, homeless outreach programs, and youth violence and suicide prevention services.

“These cuts will be disastrous to communities and individuals living with mental health and substance use conditions and put the lives of hundreds of thousands of children and families at risk,” said Dr. Wayne Lindstrom, president and CEO of Mental Health America.

“States have already cut mental health budgets by a combined $4 billion over the past three years—the largest single combined reduction to mental health spending since de-institutionalization in the 1970s. Given that one in every four Americans lives with a mental health or substance use condition, and more than 67 percent of adults and 80 percent of children who need services do not receive treatment, maintaining discretionary federal funding for mental health and substance use services is pivotal to ensure citizens have access to behavioral health care.”

The Mental Health America analysis, which assumes a 10 percent cut to all Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration (SAMHSA) programs and other public health activities and research, finds that under sequestration:

  • 684,000 individuals will lose critical employment and housing assistance, case management services, and school-based supports;
  • 1.13 million children and adults will be at risk of losing access to any type of public mental health support;
  • More than 320,000 children will miss out on coordinated mental health services, early intervention and prevention programming, and other suicide prevention services;
  • 230,000 individuals will lose access to treatment and prevention services;
  • 169,000 fewer individuals will be admitted to substance use treatment programs.

The analysis also finds that cuts to the National Institutes of Health would equal more than the entire combined budgets for the National Institute of Mental Health and National Institute on Drug Abuse. The sequestration could potentially eliminate 2,300 new and competing research project grants.

The cuts to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) equal more than half the funds it spent on all chronic disease prevention and health promotion ($1.2 billion). Life-saving immunizations would be denied to 30,000 children and 20,000 adults. It would also decrease the number of effective teen dating violence prevention programs that could result in increased psychological and sexual abuse.

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality would experience cuts that equal 62 percent of all funding for investigator-initiated research grants for quality, effectiveness and efficiency research, stalling the discovery and dissemination of new and effective treatments.

“These are essential and cost-effective programs that provide essential care, prevent injury and illness, and allow individuals to achieve recovery and live full and productive lives,” Dr. Lindstrom said.

“Allowing sequestration to go forward will only end up costing taxpayers and the government more in the future.”

Mental Health America ( is the nation’s largest and oldest community-based network dedicated to helping all Americans achieve wellness by living mentally healthier lives. With our 240 affiliates across the country, we touch the lives of millions—Advocating for changes in mental health and wellness policy; Educating the public & providing critical information; and delivering urgently needed mental health and wellness Programs and Services.


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 Alexandria, VA 22314

Phone (703) 684.7722

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