Marie Williams

NASHVILLE, TN — The Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (TDMHSAS) is receiving more than $53 million in additional funding from the federal government to address post-COVID mental health and substance use needs.

The supplemental block grant funding will add more than $27 million to mental health services and nearly $26 million to substance use services over the next four years. The funding is part of a $3 billion allocation included in the American Rescue Plan signed into law in March.

The new funding comes on top of significant supplemental funding from the federal government and new investment of state dollars. TDMHSAS has received an additional $55 million in COVID relief funding from the federal government since the start of the pandemic, and Governor Bill Lee and the Tennessee General Assembly increased the department’s budget for next fiscal year by more than $44.1 million.

The most recent rounds of federal funding supplement the state’s existing Mental Health Block Grant and Substance Abuse Block Grants. New dollars will expand the availability of evidence-based treatment services, strengthen the statewide network of crisis services, support the continued and expanded use of telehealth services, respond to the unique needs of children, and more. TDMHSAS and federal partners are both allowing room for mental health and substance use treatment agencies across the state to design programs that meet their communities’ unique needs.

“With the outpouring of support for mental health and substance use needs in our state, we have a priceless opportunity to bring about significant change and make a difference for Tennesseans who are struggling. The mental health and substance use impacts brought on by the stresses of the pandemic are with us, and these generous investments at both the state and federal levels are going to make sure we and our community behavioral health providers can continue to rise to meet the need,” said TDMHSAS Commissioner Marie Williams, LCSW. “We are tremendously grateful to our amazing network of providers across the state who answer the call and respond with compassionate care to help people find new lives in recovery.”

During the pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention surveyed people in Tennessee and across the nation on feelings of anxiety and depression. Tennesseans self- reported symptoms of anxiety and depression at rates of more than 40% which is more than double the normal prevalence of any mental illness in a given year.

Tennessee also saw a tragic spike in drug overdoses in the first few months of the pandemic. Thanks to the work of the Regional Overdose Prevention Specialists and other harm reduction groups, the rate of drug overdose returned to normal levels, but still too many Tennesseans are dying from a preventable cause.

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