Supporting Mental Health Policies and Practices through the American Rescue Plan
By Christine Johnson-Staub & Isha Weerasinghe
The pandemic exacerbated an already untenable mental health crisis, which continues to worsen by the week. To ensure that people have adequate and complete service coverage and supports, members of the public and private sectors, including policymakers, must make major systemic and policy changes. In March 2021, Congress passed the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) which included much-needed federal investments and opportunities to advance mental health policies and resources at the state and local level. However, these investments are timebound and insufficient to fully address the structural, systemic, and policy changes required to ensure appropriate and effective mental health services are equitably available to all individuals and communities.
This brief offers a set of principles policymakers and other stakeholders can consider as they implement ARPA’s mental health provisions. It provides an overview of opportunities within the law to address mental health needs, and suggests immediate and longer-term policy recommendations that help to lift the longstanding barriers people of color and other historically disenfranchised populations face in accessing mental health services.