Governors and lawmakers in many states are seeking billions of dollars in funding increases for mental health this year, as Republicans and Democrats alike say that a shortage of services has reached crisis levels.
The budget proposals seek to address a nationwide scarcity of mental-health workers, mental-health needs i schools and growing demand for emergency services. They represent a bipartisan point of agreement for more government action and underscore how dire many think the problem has become. Governors in at least a dozen states—including California, South Carolina, Ohio and Georgia—are pushing for more money for mental health, the Wall Street Journal reports. "We have not seen a concerted effort like this before,” said Hannah Wesolowski of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. She said some state leaders are willing to spend more because they have budget surpluses “while others are just willing to make the investment because it’s really reached a boiling point.” Members of both parties say improved mental-health programs will help solve problems including youth well-being and drug overdoses that worsened during the pandemic. Republicans have pointed to mental-health programs as the most effective way to reduce mass shootings, while some Democrats say bolstering such programs will help ease homelessness. The federal Health Resources and Services Administration says that 158.4 million Americans live in areas with shortages of mental-health workers. A decade ago, 94.8 million people lived in such areas. The number of mental-health professionals needed to address the scarcity grew to 7,957 last year from 2,593 in 2013. The shortage is the result of both a growing demand for services, which was escalating before the pandemic, and a lack of mental-health professionals, due in part to high burnout and low pay.