FY 2015 Appropriations: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration


Federal Policy Brief | March 7, 2014

Files: FY 2015 Appropriations: Mental Health and Substance Use Treatment Services For Homeless Populations (PDF | 230 KB | 1 PAGE)

FY 2015 Appropriations Request
Provide $100 million in SAMHSA homeless programs for essential mental health and substance use treatment services.  These grants help chronically homeless families and individuals acquire and maintain permanent supportive housing.  In addition, SAMHSA also funds other housing programs targeted to homeless and at-risk families, youth, and individuals. 

Our $100 million ask would allow this initiative to move forward and provide approximately 50 new services grants targeted to proven ways of ending homelessness.

On any given night, according to 2013 data, 610,042 people are homeless, and 15 percent of these individuals are defined as chronically homeless.  Years of reliable data and research demonstrate that, for families and individuals with complex needs, the most successful intervention for ending and preventing homelessness is linking housing to appropriate support services.  Although there is a need for more affordable housing, funding the supportive services is even more difficult.  The Department of Health and Human Services 2007 report entitled Strategic Action Plan on Homelessness broadened HHS’ focus to include all homeless populations and their need for comprehensive services. 

SAMHSA homeless programs fill a gap created by a preference of HUD to fund housing rental assistance and capital needs.  Therefore, HHS must take responsibility, appropriately so, to fund the critically important services that are necessary for programs to be effective.  In 2013, SAMHSA was not able to award any new community-based services grants.  For the first time, eleven states (AZ, GA, HI, WA, LA, IL, NV, PA, MA, MI and CO) did receive funding to improve statewide alignment of resources but every state could use SAMHSA assistance in their efforts to end homelessness.  Over the years, hundreds of government entities and local providers have been unable to move forward with important work due to inadequate funding levels.

The current FY 2014 funding level of SAMHSA homeless programs is $74 million.  This is divided between three accounts: two within the Center for Mental Health Services (CMHS) totaling $33 million and one within the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT) totaling $41 million.  The President’s FY 2015 Budget Proposal recommends providing $74 million for SAMHSA homeless programs, representing level funding from FY 2014.

Cost Effectiveness of Services and Housing
In these tough budget times, it is important to use every public dollar as effectively as possible.  We are proposing an increase to SAMHSA Homeless Services Programs because these programs ultimately save tax payer dollars.  Supportive housing ends the cycle of frequently and inappropriately using expensive social supports and institutional care that people with complex needs cannot break while homeless. Here are examples from various cost studies:

Reduced Health Care Costs.  In New York, reduced psychiatric hospitalizations resulted in an annual savings of $8,260 per person. In Denver and Los Angeles, annual reductions in physical health hospitalizations saved of $3,423 and $13,392 per person, respectively.
Lower Shelter Costs.  Large annual savings were also generated as a result of reductions in shelter use - $3,799 and $6,844 per person in New York and Denver, respectively.
Improved Incarceration Costs.  Savings from reductions in jail and prison use were smaller, but still significant.  In New York, combined annual savings from jail and prison was $800 per person, $686 in Denver, and $1,320 in Los Angeles.