HHS funding expands substance abuse, mental health services

In an effort to combat mental illness and the opioid epidemic, the Department of Health and Human Services is making $195 million in funding available to community health centers nationwide to support behavioral health and substance abuse services, including increasing the use of health IT.

“Addressing serious mental illness across our nation and combating the opioid epidemic are two of the department’s top priorities,” said HHS Secretary Tom Price. “Integration is key to solving these challenges. This funding will help our nation’s health centers provide that integration for mental health services and opioid addiction treatment.”

Also See: Prescription databases can play a role in reducing opioid abuse

The Fiscal Year 2017 Access Increases in Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (AIMS) supplemental funding is meant to enable health centers to increase personnel as well as use HIT focused on the treatment, prevention and awareness of opioid abuse, further integrating their use into primary care.

Examples provided by HHS for one-time HIT funding uses include:

  • Increasing the use of telehealth to support access to and delivery of mental health and substance use disorder treatment services.
  • Enhancing documentation and sharing of electronic health record information to support telehealth patient visits.
  • Improving interoperability of mental health/substance abuse and primary health care EHR systems.
  • Augmenting EHR interoperability and health information exchange with clinical and public health partners.
  • Improving integration of prescription drug monitoring program data into EHR and quality improvement activities.
  • Integrating clinical decision support tools into EHRs.
  • Enhancing operational and clinical workflows to support the use of HIT that improves the effectiveness of mental health and substance abuse services and increases patient engagement and self-management.

However, the announcement emphasizes that AIMS funding is not to be used to purchase or upgrade an EHR that is not certified by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT.

Applications for the AIMS funding are due by July 26, with awards slated for September. Additional information about the opportunity can be found here.

For reprint and licensing requests for this article, click here.