Community Mental Health Services Block Grant

The Community Mental Health Services Block Grant (MHBG) program makes funds available to all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and 6 Pacific jurisdictions to provide community mental health services.

What is the Community Mental Health Services Block Grant (MHBG)?

The MHBG program's objective is to support the grantees in carrying out plans for providing comprehensive community mental health services. The MHBG program is authorized by section 1911 of Title XIX, Part B, Subpart I and III of the Public Health Service (PHS) Act (PDF | 253 KB).

SAMHSA's Center for Mental Health Services’ (CMHS) Division of State and Community Systems Development (DSCSD) administers MHBG funds. Grantees can be flexible in the use of funds for both new and unique programs or to supplement their current activities. 

In addition to providing MHBG awards, CMHS provides recipients with technical assistance (TA).  The TA supports the use of evidence-based programs.

Targeted Populations

The MHBG program targets:

  • Adults with serious mental illnesses. Includes persons age 18 and older who have a diagnosable behavioral, mental, or emotional condition—as defined by the Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) of Mental Disorders. Their condition substantially interferes with, or limits, one or more major life activities, such as:
    • Basic daily living (for example, eating or dressing)
    • Instrumental living (for example, taking prescribed medications or getting around the community)
    • Participating in a family, school, or workplace
  • Children with serious emotional disturbances. Includes persons up to age 18 who have a diagnosable behavioral, mental, or emotional issue (as defined by the DSM). This condition results in a functional impairment that substantially interferes with, or limits, a child’s role or functioning in family, school, or community activities.

SAMHSA’s definitions of children with serious emotional disturbances and adults with serious mental illness were provided in a 1993 Federal Register notice (May 20, 1993; 58 FR 29422).

Performance Requirements

Each grantee has a designated unit of the executive branch that is responsible for administering the MHBG (for example, the Division of Behavioral Health).

SAMHSA expects block grant recipients to satisfy the following performance requirements:

  • They must submit a plan explaining how they will use MHBG funds to provide comprehensive, community mental health services to adults with serious mental illnesses and children with serious emotional disturbances. SAMHSA also requires recipients to provide annual reports on their plans.
  • They may distribute funds to local government entities and non-governmental organizations.
  • They must ensure that community mental health centers provide such services as screening, outpatient treatment, emergency mental health services, and day treatment programs.
  • They must comply with general federal requirements for managing grants. They must also cooperate in efforts by SAMHSA to monitor use of MHBG funds. For example, each year, CMHS conducts investigations (site visits) of at least ten grantees receiving MHBG funds. This is to assess how they are using the funds to benefit the population. These evaluations include careful review of the following:
    • How the grantees are tracking use of MHBG funds and their adult and child mental health programs
    • Data and performance management systems
    • Collaboration with consumers and the grantees' mental health planning council
  • Grantees receiving MHBG funds are required to form and support a state or territory mental health planning council.

Mental Health Planning Council

A mental health planning council ensures collaboration among key state agencies and facilitates consumer input into the state’s mental health services and activities. The majority (51% or more) of a state’s planning council should be comprised of consumer and family members.

To ensure coordination among state agencies in mental health planning, the planning council is required to:

  • Include representatives from state education, mental health, rehabilitation, criminal justice, housing, and social services agencies
  • Include adult members (consumers) who receive mental health services
  • Include family members of children with emotional disturbances

This planning council provides input on the mental health plan submitted to SAMHSA. The National Association of Mental Health Planning & Advisory Councils provides more detailed information about mental health planning councils.

Behavioral Health Planning Council

With the integration of substance abuse and mental health, many state mental health authorities are transitioning from mental health planning councils to behavioral health planning councils. A behavioral health planning council is responsible for reviewing, monitoring, and evaluating the adequacy of behavioral health services for its state. It reviews issues and services for persons with mental disorders and/or substance abuse and substance use disorders.

SAMHSA encourages states to expand their required council’s comprehensive approach by designing and implementing regularly scheduled collaborations with an existing substance abuse prevention and treatment advisory council. The behavioral health planning council completes duties as specified in the MHBG statute, as well as advises, consults with, and makes recommendations to state mental health authorities and single state authorities regarding their activities.

Web Block Grant Application System (WebBGAS)

State mental health authorities and single state agencies can submit applications through the electronic application system, WebBGAS.

Last Updated: 03/05/2014