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Washington, D.C. -- A bill that would insure Wyoming continues to get increased federal funding for improving mental health and substance abuse services passed a significant benchmark this week and looks favorable to become law, according to U.S. Senator Mike Enzi, R-Wyo.

Enzi and his colleagues on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee passed on a vote of 17-1 Wednesday S. 976, which reauthorizes programs within the jurisdiction of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The bill would permanently implement last year's temporary funding formula for Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment block grants. Enzi worked to make sure the formula included a minimum amount for states with lower populations like Wyoming. As a result of the formula, Wyoming's share of federal funding for these programs went up 49 percent from fiscal year 1998 to fiscal year 1999, $1.6 million to $2.4 million respectively.

"There is a large problem in our small state with substance abuse. We should have fair access to the same federal funds other states are using to combat drugs," said Enzi. "Wyoming will continue to get increased funding in this area if the bill passes into law. It passed by an overwhelming vote out of committee and I think there is a lot of support in the House and in the Administration so it looks favorable."

Wyoming will continue to see increases in its grant as the minimum standard of total appropriations for the program is phased in. The percent increase each year will vary according to the funding Congress appropriates. The fiscal year 2000 funds have not yet been appropriated.

Wyoming received $3.4 million in formula funds under SAMSHA this year. In addition to the substance abuse block grant, these funds included the Community Mental Health Services Block Grant, the Projects for Assistance in Transition from Homelessness and the Protections and Advocacy Formula Grant. Wyoming also receives another $1.5 million in discretionary funding each year, for which the state and local entities across the nation compete.

The bill, S. 976, also authorizes $40 million for grants, contracts or cooperative agreements to public and non-profit private entities including American Indian tribes and tribal organizations for substance abuse treatment services for children and adolescents. The bill authorizes another $150 million for grants to assist communities in developing ways to assist children in dealing with violence.

Now the bill will be considered by the House and Senate as a whole before being passed on to the president for his signature. Enzi said, barring some unforseen turn of events, the bill should become law before the end of the year.