The 21st Century Cures Act and Mental Health Care

The 21st Century Cures Act is a law authorized by the 114th United States Congress and signed by Barack Obama on December 13, 2016. It legislated $6.3 billion in funding to help speed up drug development. It also placed priority on science, encouraging “federal agencies to fund only programs that are backed by solid research and to collect data on patients that it helped (Szabo, 2016).” Furthermore, it provides significant provisions to improve mental health care and substance abuse.

These requirements include:

Early Intervention for Psychosis

This law, combined with other mental health proposals from various legislators, urges states to use at least 10 percent of their mental health block grants on early intervention for psychosis by using the clinical approach of coordinated specialty care. In this model, a team of specialists implements psychotherapy, medication, education, and support for patients’ families as well as services to help patients stay at school or work (Szabo, 2016).  

Combating the Opioid Epidemic

This Act allocates $1 billion over two years to battle the opioid epidemic. Services include making treatment programs more accessible, training healthcare workers in helping people with addiction, and administering research into effective treatments to prevent dependency (Jacoby, 2016).

Upholding Mental Health Parity

The great part about the implementation of the ACA is that it was a breakthrough for mental health parity. Insurance companies were enforced to treat and charge mental health services the same as physical health services. The Cures Act plans to maintain these regulations by “directing the Department of Health and Human Services, along with stakeholders, an action plan for improved federal and state coordination, and to issue new guidance to health plans to assist them in complying with existing requirements (American Psychological Association, 2016).”

Assertive Community Treatment

The act designates a $5 million grant to Assertive Community Treatment, a multi-disciplinary approach to help people with severe mental illness who are at high risk for homelessness, psychiatric crisis, hospitalization, and run-ins with the law. It also broadens a grant program for assisted outpatient, which provides court-ordered care for people with serious mental illness, who contrarily might not seek help.

Flexibility with Grants

The act allows states to have increased flexibility in using federal grants. States can use funds for training law enforcement on de-escalation techniques for citizens in crisis, community mental health resources, suicide prevention, and intervention programs.

This law is a huge achievement in mental health care and decreases the stigma towards mental illness. I’m fascinated by this particular act because if the ACA repeal were to fully happen; would this law defend mental health provisions that were introduced by the ACA?

I hope so.


American Psychological Association. (2016, December 7). APA applauds senate passage of mental

mental health provisions. American Psychological Association.

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Jacoby, Sarah. (2016, December 16). What the controversial cures act means for you. Refinery 29. 

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Szabo, Liz. (2016, December 7). Mental health advocates celebrate passage of of 21st century cures act.

USA Today.

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Photo Courtesy: By The White House from Washington, DC (P051209PS-0505) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons