Final Omnibus Bill Adds Billions in Funding for Police, Mental Health Professionals, and Substance Abuse Programs, Cantwell Announces

Federal year-end omnibus will help improve police de-escalation and response, address shortage of mental health professionals, and increase funding for substance abuse programs to reduce drug-related deaths

WASHINGTON, D.C– Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) announced that she has helped secure enhanced federal funding for police training, mental health programs and substance abuse treatment – all key priorities benefiting the Seattle metro and Washington state in the Fiscal Year 2023 Omnibus Appropriations bill, which funds government programs through September 30, 2023.

“Medical professionals and policy makers agree that mental health plays a major role in homelessness, substance abuse, and gun violence. It is critical that we invest in mental health and substance abuse treatment services so that we can find holistic ways to tackle these difficult issues,” Sen. Cantwell said.

The text of the bill includes significant increases to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) formula block grants that help states like Washington expand their mental health programs and address substance abuse disorders. Both are major issues in King County and Washington state at large, where the rate of drug overdoses increased by 16% in just the first few months of the pandemic and the rate of drug-related deaths increased 27% in 2020.

The HHS Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) block grants received a 15% increase over FY 22 to expand mental health programs, as well as a 7.5% increase over FY 22 to address the opioid crisis and substance abuse disorders.

Institutions such as Seattle-King County Public Health Departmentwhich received a $2 million five-year SAMHSA block grant in 2018 – will continue to benefit from the block grants in order to treat individuals with serious mental illnesses, emotional disturbances, and those who may also be facing homelessness.

In addition, the Omnibus also provides funding for 200 additional Medicare-funded Graduate Medical Education residency slots, half of which will be dedicated towards psychiatry-focused specialties. The medical workforce especially the mental health specialty has been hit hard during the pandemic. Large numbers of doctors, nurses, and other medical staff are leaving the workforce due to stress and burnout, leaving hospitals and medical practitioners in Washington state short staffed.

The Omnibus bill also includes a 13% increase in funds – or a $506.4 million increase, totaling $4.4 billion nationwide – that can be used to help state and local police better train and support law enforcement. The enhanced law enforcement investment includes resources for de-escalation, implicit bias, and duty to intervene training, as well as training police to properly respond to situations when individuals are mentally ill. It also includes funding for Community Violence Intervention Programs and collaborations between law enforcement and crisis intervention teams consisting of mental health professionals.

The enhanced investment in law enforcement will additionally help address sexual assault kit and other DNA evidence backlogs, support Second Chance Act programs, the STOP School Violence Act and the Violence Against Women Act, improve the National Instant Criminal Background Check system and combat hate crimes.

The text of the bill was released early Tuesday. The Senate is expected to vote on the bill this week.