Cantwell, Stabenow Call For Expanded Access to Behavioral Health Treatment

“We know that [Certified] Community Behavioral Health Clinics work, we just need to add more capacity,” says Cantwell

SEATTLE, WA – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) joined elected officials and health care providers at Sound Capitol Hill, a health clinic in Seattle, to discuss the need to expand access to behavioral health care in the State of Washington and nationwide.

The senators focused on the success of Certified Community Behavioral Health Centers (CCBHCs), which help ensure access to coordinated comprehensive behavioral health care. CCBHCs treat anyone – regardless of their ability to pay – and focus on Medicaid patients. In Washington state, 17 individual local health centers are active CCBHCs.

“We have some facilities, but they are gate-kept by the number of providers they have and the number of services,” said Sen. Cantwell. “By us at the federal level layering on additional resources, they can expand capacity and see more people.”

“Nationwide, these [Certified] Community Behavioral Health Clinics have served over 2.1 million people,” Sen. Cantwell added. “Among those patients, studies have shown these results: A 74% reduction in hospitalization, a 68% reduction in emergency room visits, and a 33% decrease in homelessness. So we know that [Certified] Community Behavioral Health Clinics work, we just need to add more capacity.”

Sen. Cantwell and Sen. Stabenow helped create the CCBHC program, and worked to secure $8.6 billion in funding for CCBHCs over the next 10 years through 2022’s Bipartisan Safer Communities Act.

“We want clinics and individual providers across the State of Washington to apply for these grants to help build capacity in our state,” Sen. Cantwell said.

“We've got hard work to do. And this is where your Senator is the champion,” said Sen. Stabenow. “Seventeen clinics, great! There’s more to be done.”

Also speaking at the press conference were King County Councilmember Girmay Zahilay, Sound President & CEO Katrina Egner, and Comprehensive Life Resources CEO Kim Zacher.

Out of all 50 states, Washington has the sixth highest prevalence of mental illness. However, some Washington counties have no practicing psychiatrists and for those that do, wait times for appointments can last for months. Just 16.2% of mental health care needs are currently met in Washington. To adequately meet needs, the state would need to hire over 150 additional psychiatrists.

Sen. Stabenow and Sen. Cantwell were key Congressional champions of the Excellence in Mental Health and Addiction Treatment Act, which passed as part of the Protecting Access to Medicare Act, and created the CCBHC initiative in 2014. The initiative allows qualified and eligible clinics to attain a CCBHC designation in return for enhanced Medicaid payments. Under the program, both states and individual local health centers or organizations may apply for grants.

As of October 2022, more than 500 CCBHCs served 2.1 million patients nationwide. As the former chairwoman of the Senate Finance Subcommittee on Health Care, Sen. Stabenow played a pivotal role in establishing the program. Since Congress created the grant program for CCBHCs, Sen. Cantwell has worked with her colleagues to ensure clinics in Washington state are eligible for funding and has worked with clinics throughout the state to help them procure funding through the program.

Video of the event is available HERE, audio of Sen. Cantwell’s remarks is available HERE, audio of Sen. Stabenow’s remarks is available HERE, and a transcript of both Senators’ remarks is available HERE.