On February 7th, the National Advisory Mental Health Council convened for its 269th meeting to advise the Director of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) on policy issues and activities related to NIMH research. This was the first meeting for the new Advisory Council (AC) member, Dr. Velma McBride Murry, who is also the past president of the newest FABBS member, the Society for Research on Adolescence. This was the first AC meeting with an in-person component since the beginning of the pandemic. FABBS staff were grateful for the opportunity to be there in person.
Director of NIMH Dr. Joshua Gordon provided updates on FY23 and 24 appropriations, congressional interactions, NIMH news, science highlights, and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) broadly.
Budget / Appropriations
On December 29, 2022, Biden signed the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023, which provides $47.5 billion for NIH, including $2.3 billion for NIMH. The budget for FY 2022 showed an increased success rate of 24 percent in NIMH application awards due to NIMH’s slightly larger budget compared to last year. NIMH has received continuous budget increases each fiscal year since 2017.
The law directs NIMH to invest $25 million to expand research on the impact of COVID-19 on mental health. The omnibus spending package also includes an increase of $5 million to support research on mental health treatment approaches, service delivery, and system transformation. Gordon mentioned that NIMH will use this $5 million increase to support ALACRITY research centers.
Towards the end of last year NIMH briefed members of Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman’s (D-NJ) staff on research efforts related to youth mental health disparities research. Dr. Joshua Gordon participated in a presentation to Sen. Susan Collins’ staff and the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee staff on the NIH Climate Change and Health Initiative, an effort to reduce health threats from climate change and build health resilience.
HHS and NIH Updates
NIH-wide initiatives include the All of Us Research Program, as well as the next phase of the Brain Initiative, and the issuing of the new Data Management and Sharing (DMS) Policy which requires investigators and institutions to submit a DMS plan when applying for funding and comply with the approved DMS plan. The UNITE Initiative also released their Inaugural Progress Report detailing FY21-22 accomplishments.
The NIH Center for Scientific Review (CSR) announced proposed changes to the research project grant peer review process, which is intended to help reduce bias and focus reviewers on scientific merit. The NIH seeks additional input on this matter via a request for information (RFI) through March 10, 2023.
HHS has released a Roadmap for Behavioral Health Integration, highlighting high-impact policies and programs to address national mental health crisis. The U.S. Surgeon General has announced a Framework for Workplace Mental Health and Well-being.
NIMH News to Know
The NIMH released a strategic framework for addressing youth mental health disparities, which outlines plans for guiding research in order to reduce youth mental disparities by 2031. NIMH has also shared resources across digital platforms, including the Discover NIMH e-newsletter and social media. Finally, Dr. Gordon highlighted NIMH’s efforts in precision medicine psychiatry, approving two new initiatives in precision diagnostic research and biomarker development research.
The rest of the session included a presentation from Dr. Anita Everett, about her work as Director of the Center for Mental Health Services (CMHS) – Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Leonardo Cubillos, who serves as the director of the NIMH Center for Global Mental Health Research, also gave a presentation detailing his work on global mental health research. The meeting concluded with two concept clearances and comments from retiring members.