Reject spending cuts that will jeopardize the nation's long-term health

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The American Psychological Association voiced grave concerns about the White House's proposed federal budget for fiscal year 2019 and encouraged Congress to reject expenditure cuts that would jeopardize the country's long-term health.

12/21/20222 min read

Despite increased funding for combating the opioid epidemic, improving veterans' health care, and funding scientific research, the administration's overall budget, if implemented, would destroy important education, justice, and behavioral health workforce programs.

"The President's budget proposal, like the budget deal reached by Congress, includes new spending on the opioid crisis, but it falls far short of what's needed to combat an epidemic that kills tens of thousands of Americans every year and cost the US economy $504 billion in 2015 alone," said Arthur C. Evans, Jr., PhD, chief executive officer of the American Psychological Association. "We hoped that declaring the opioid epidemic a public health emergency in October would be the first step toward alleviating the situation. But we can't successfully respond to a crisis of this magnitude without real resources, and we can't do so with the proposed significant cuts to education, justice, and mental health programs."

The budget proposes a $688 million cut to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the principal federal agency dealing with the opioid and mental health crises, as well as significant cuts to the Centers for Mental Health Services, Substance Use Prevention, and Treatment. The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery State Targeted Response to the Opioid Crisis Grants program has been completely phased down.

The budget also proposes slashing roughly $600 million from the Department of Justice's Office of Justice Programs, which funds innovative mental health research and practice in the criminal justice system.

"The American Public Health Association looks forward to working with Congress to ensuring that significant investments in evidence-based approaches that prioritize prevention, treatment, and research are made to address this ongoing public health issue," Evans said.

Cuts to health professionals training programs have also been a source of concern for the organization, which comes at a time when the behavioral health workforce is in short supply. The budget proposes to eliminate the long-running Minority Fellowship Program, which is important for diversifying the psychology workforce, as well as the Graduate Psychology Education Program, which expands training opportunities for the next generation of psychologists to work in integrated primary care.

Additionally, the proposed budget would abolish subsidized loans for undergraduate borrowers, increasing debt for students with financial need who seek advanced degrees, as well as the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. Individuals who desire to work in rural communities, especially mental health providers, would be discouraged by such a move.

"While the budget calls for additional infrastructure investment, it also marks a significant disinvestment in our most valuable national resource, our ambitious students and future mental health workers," Evans added. "The budget proposal cuts education programs and puts graduate school options out of reach for low-income students. When doctorate psychology students are already carrying significant student debt, this does not bode well for the psychology workforce."

The American Psychological Association applauded the proposed $468 million increase in funding for mental health services at the Department of Veterans Affairs, as well as increased investments in veteran homelessness prevention and reduction, targeted health programming for women veterans, veteran-centric intramural research, and suicide prevention outreach.

"This additional funding should be used to fulfill veterans' demand for more and more prompt access to high-quality treatment by fully staffing and providing resources to VA medical institutions and clinics," Evans said.

The American Psychological Association is the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States, with headquarters in Washington, D.C. Nearly 115,700 academics, educators, clinicians, consultants, and students are members of the American Psychological Association. APA seeks to enhance the creation, communication, and application of psychological knowledge to benefit society and better people's lives through divisions in 54 subfields of psychology and connections with 60 state, territory, and Canadian provincial associations.