ROCKVILLE, MD – Today, Congressman Jamie Raskin, Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen, and Congressmen Steny H. Hoyer, David Trone, Anthony G. Brown, Kweisi Mfume, Dutch Ruppersberger, and John Sarbanes (all D-Md) wrote Maryland Secretary of Health Dennis Schrader urging the Maryland Department of Health to apply for a Certified Community Behavioral Health Center (CCBHC) planning grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). SAMHSA is the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services agency that leads public health efforts to advance the behavioral health of the nation.

This is a new federal grant opportunity created by the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, a groundbreaking public safety and mental health package that President Biden signed into law in June.

CCBHCs are specially designated mental health clinics that must meet rigorous federal standards, such as serving anyone who needs care regardless of their ability to pay, providing 24/7 crisis services, and delivering developmentally appropriate care to children and youth. The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act included a nationwide expansion of the CCBHC Medicaid demonstration program over ten years. However, to be eligible to join the demonstration, states must first apply for and receive a SAMHSA planning grant.

“Given that the [planning grant] application deadline is December 19, 2022, and the next opportunity to participate in the demonstration will not be until 2026, we urge the Maryland Department of Health (MDH) to pursue this significant federal grant opportunity in order to allow the incoming administration maximum flexibility to determine whether participation is appropriate for the state,” wrote the lawmakers.

The lawmakers continued, “available evidence shows that Medicaid-financed CCBHCs expand access to intensive, coordinated community-based mental health and substance use services.”

The CCBHC Medicaid demonstration program can enable mental health clinics to hire more staff, serve more people and offer more services. Maryland’s participation could help alleviate the state’s mental health and substance use crises, including the challenge of emergency room boarding of behavioral health patients.

The letter is available here.