Block Grants:

Federal Set-Asides for Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services

HRD-88-17: Published: Oct 14, 1987. Publicly Released: Oct 14, 1987.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO examined: (1) how states determined needs and made decisions on their use of Alcohol, Drug Abuse and Mental Health (ADAMH) Services Block Grant funds; and (2) how states implemented the set-aside provisions that targeted female substance abusers and mentally ill children and adolescents.

GAO studied eight states and found that: (1) most states allocated their funds according to historical trends or to maintain existing services; (2) states met the requirement to set aside funds either by expanding existing services or by passing on the responsibility to local or county service providers; (3) most states neither received increased block grant funds nor provided additional funding to service providers; (4) most state officials stated that they would continue these services even without the set-aside requirement; and (5) a majority of recipient interest groups believe that their states' commitments to the services would decrease if Congress eliminated the set-aside.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Omnibus Anti Drug Abuse Act of 1988, which reauthorizes the ADMS block grant, requires that states set aside a percent of its federal for new and expanded services for intravenous drug abusers, women substance abusers, especially pregnant women and women with dependent children, and seriously emotionally disturbed children and adolescents.

    Matter: In reauthorizing the ADAMH or other block grants, Congress should promote new or expanded services for target populations using the set-aside approach. Congress should also consider specifying the time period prior to enactment of legislation during which states could count previously initiated services toward meeting the set-aside requirement.


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