May 19, 2022

Rep. Watson Coleman Introduces Legislation to Reauthorize SAMHSA Minority Fellowship Program

Today, Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12), along with Congressmen G.K. Butterfield (NC-01) and John Katko (NY-24), introduced a bill to reauthorize the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) Minority Fellowship Program. In addition to reauthorizing the program, the Minority Fellowship Reauthorization Act of 2022 increases its funding from $12.6 million to $25 million.  

The SAMHSA Minority Fellowship Program is dedicated to closing racial mental health gaps and improving mental health care outcomes for underserved communities.  

“As a longtime advocate for health equity, I know that people of color, especially Black and brown people, disproportionately suffer from depression, substance use disorder, and other mental illnesses. This health disparity is compounded by a lack of access to affordable, high-quality mental health care services in underserved communities,” said Congresswoman Watson Coleman. “The SAMHSA Minority Fellowship Program changes lives by treating substance use as the mental health issue it truly is and providing culturally competent care to those who need it most. To properly address the racial mental health gap, Congress must reauthorize and strengthen this essential program.” 

“The COVID-19 pandemic put a spotlight on the persistent health disparities that exist between racial and ethnic populations and showed how critical a diverse healthcare workforce is to care in these communities. A diverse behavioral health workforce will help improve behavioral health outcomes for communities of color,” said Congressman Butterfield. “Our nation must make strong investments in recruiting and retaining diverse behavioral health professionals, which is why reauthorizing the Minority Fellowship Program at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration is critical for our country’s health. I am proud to work with my colleagues to reauthorize this vital program.” 

“I am proud to join my colleagues in announcing bipartisan legislation to reauthorize the Minority Fellowship Program at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration,” said Congressman Katko. “The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a devastating toll on the mental health of millions of Americans and highlighted disparities in the accessibility of mental health services among minority communities. The continuation of this program is essential to expanding the pipeline of diverse mental health providers that can meet the needs of underserved communities.” 

“For over 45 years, the Minority Fellowship Program administered through the American Nurses Association (ANA) has been one of the Nation’s most successful programs focused on the educational preparation of ethnic and minority psychiatric mental health advanced practice nurses who have contributed significantly to the research, clinical practice, education and policy aimed at decreasing health disparities and increasing equity for all minority populations. Despite this success, the COVID-19 pandemic has shown us that there is still much need to reduce disparities within the mental health community and a need for more providers. ANA commends Reps. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ), G.K. Butterfield (D-NC), and John Katko (R-NY) for introducing legislation to reauthorize and increase funding for these highly successful programs,” said American Nurses Association president Ernest Grant, PhD, RN, FAAN

“The American Psychiatric Association is a long-time supporter of the SAMHSA Minority Fellowship Program and hosts multiple fellows each year. Our fellows are psychiatry residents who use their fellowship time to complete projects and/or research that alleviates mental health disparities in underserved communities. These fellowships are vital in training a diverse, culturally competent psychiatry workforce, while also striving to close the health equity gap for minority and underserved populations,” said American Psychiatric Association chief executive officer and medical director Saul Levin, MD, MPA, FRCP-E, FRCPsych. 

“The Minority Fellowship Program is a longstanding, successful program that aims to reduce health disparities and improve behavioral health care for racial and ethnic populations by supporting the training, mentoring and career development for psychologists and other mental health professionals of color,” said Jaime “Jim” Diaz-Granados, PhD, deputy chief executive officer of the American Psychological Association. “Increasing funding to $25 million would allow more psychologists to work with diverse populations in what are often underserved areas. These last two years especially have proven how necessary mental health care is for underserved populations.” 

“The Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) strongly supports the introduction of the Minority Fellowship Program Reauthorization Act of 2022, led by Representatives Bonnie Watson Coleman, G.K. Butterfield, and John Katko. The Minority Fellowship Program is crucial in increasing the number of culturally competent social work behavioral health professionals in the public and private non-profit sectors trained to teach, conduct research, and provide direct mental health and/or substance use disorder services. As Congress looks to address the mental health and substance use disorder crises, now is the time to ensure robust funding for the Minority Fellowship Program,” said Council on Social Work Education president and CEO Darla Spence Coffey, PhD, MSW

You can find more information on the Minority Fellowship Program at the SAMHSA’s website