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ACL Launches Center to Improve Support for People Who Have Both Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities and Mental Health Disabilities

September 30, 2022

To close National Recovery Month, ACL has awarded a cooperative agreement totaling an estimated $3.25 million over five years to create a national technical assistance and resource center that will improve support for people with co-occurring intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) and mental health needs so they can live and participate in their communities.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released a Roadmap for Behavioral Health Integration. The Roadmap, which was developed in support of the President’s strategy to address the national mental health crisis, affirmed HHS’s commitment to “providing the full spectrum of integrated, equitable, evidence-based, culturally appropriate and person-centered behavioral health care.” It outlined a range of actions to support the pillars of the President’s strategy, including the creation of this new resource center that will help to ensure that people with I/DD have access to the behavioral health care they need.  

Research has shown that people with I/DD who also have mental health needs – estimated at more than a third of people with I/DD – are less likely to access appropriate services when experiencing mental health crises than people without I/DD. They are more likely to be institutionalized than people with either disability alone, and they often remain in institutions longer than people who have only I/DD or mental health disabilities because they cannot access the services they need to live in the community. In addition, according to the National Core Indicators Consumer Survey , when compared to their peers with I/DD only, people with both I/DD and mental health disabilities who live in the community are more likely to live in congregate settings (such as group homes) rather than independent settings and to report feeling lonely. They are less likely to be in excellent or very good health or to report having friends. They also earn less than their peers without mental health disabilities.

The grant was awarded to the National Association of State Directors of Developmental Disabilities Services (NASDDDS) in partnership with the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors (NASMHPD), and the  National Association for the Dually Diagnosed (NADD). Other key partners include: 

It will focus on systemwide capacity building by supporting state agencies – including state behavioral health, developmental disabilities and Medicaid agencies – with resources related to policy development, service design, and service coordination across agencies. Guided by people with lived experience, including those from underserved communities, the center also will provide information, training, peer-to-peer learning for people with dual I/DD-mental health diagnoses, their families, and the professionals who work with them. 

This center will build on the work of ACL’s UCEDD National Training Initiative to Support People with I/DD and Mental Health Disabilities. Through that project multidisciplinary teams from state I/DD and mental/behavioral health agencies developed a shared training infrastructure for their staff that focuses on  improving coordination of the services people with both conditions receive from these agencies.  

The Center also will leverage the recommendations of ACL’s Center for Dignity in Healthcare for People with Disabilities  at the University of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, which include increasing opportunities for medical students to specialize in serving people with I/DD; increasing knowledge of mental health characteristics among people with disabilities; improving the healthcare system; and conducting research related to the co-occurrence of disability and mental health conditions, needed treatments, and suicide prevention for this community.

The cooperative agreement was awarded in the estimated amount of $650,000 annually for the period of September 1, 2022, to August 31, 2027, funded under the Projects of National Significance. Through the Projects of National Significance program projects, ACL supports the development of national and state policy and awards grants and contracts that enhance the independence, productivity, inclusion, and integration of people with I/DD.

Last modified on 09/30/2022

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