Press Releases: Advocating for Behavioral Health IT
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Washington, June 29, 2010—More than 500 members of the National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare (National Council) are meeting here with their members of Congress tomorrow to enlist cosponsors of the Health Information Technology for Behavioral Health Services Act of 2010 (H.R. 5040). The bill would help mental health providers access electronic health records (EHRs) grants and incentives established in last year’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The law inadvertently restricts mental health practitioners from using most of the incentives that help healthcare providers and hospitals establish a nationwide health information technology (HIT) system.
The bill, introduced by Reps. Patrick Kennedy (D-RI) and Tim Murphy (R-PA) on April 15, 2010, would make mental health providers part of the national Health IT system by providing mental health treatment facilities with the same access to federal grants and incentives available to other healthcare providers. These grants and incentives may be used to purchase EHRs, train staff and improve the information sharing and collaboration between mental health and other healthcare providers.
“People with mental health and substance use conditions are in desperate need of more coordinated, integrated healthcare,” says Linda Rosenberg, president and CEO of the National Council. “Having an interoperable system of electronic health information is critical to achieving greater coordination among addiction, mental health, and other healthcare providers, and to helping consumers manage their own care.”
About 40 percent of people with mental health problems initially seek care in primary care settings, but studies consistently find that more than 50 percent individuals with significant mental health conditions do not receive adequate mental healthcare. According to a series of recent studies, persons with serious mental illnesses who are treated in the public mental health system die at an average age of 52 from health conditions like diabetes and heart disease, which are not adequately treated or managed. National Council members will advocate for the greater use of EHRs which have the potential to change these outcomes by improving care coordination and overall quality of care.
“Without this bill, a patient’s team of healthcare providers may not be able to effectively collaborate to ensure that the patient is receiving the best care possible,” Rosenberg says. “They won’t be able to share information on a patient’s history, exchange secure electronic documents, seamlessly check for potentially dangerous drug interactions before writing a prescription or create a health treatment plan that accounts for an individual’s physical and mental health concerns.”
The National Council’s goal is to enlist 100 cosponsors of the bill. Thirty-two representatives have already signed on including Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Rick Boucher (D-VA), G.K. Butterfield (D-NC), Steve Cohen (D-TN), Joe Courtney (D-CT), Diana DeGette (D-CO), Eliot Engel (D-NY), Barney Frank (D-MA), Charles Gonzalez (D-TX), Gene Green (D-TX), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Alcee Hastings (D-FL), Paul Hodes (D-NH), Steve Israel (D-NY), Steve Kagan (D-WI), Dale Kildee (D-MI), Stephen Lynch (D-MA), Jim Marshall (D-GA), Dennis Moore (D-KS), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Tim Murphy (R-PA), Sue Myrick (R-NC), Grace Napolitano (D-CA), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Ed Pastor (D-AZ), Collin Peterson (D-MN), Tim Ryan (D-OH), Ike Skelton (D-MO), John Sullivan (R-OK), Paul Tonko (D-NY), and Diane Watson (D-CA).
The National Council hosts a briefing on the HIT for Behavioral Health Services Act of 2010 on Wednesday, June 30, 9:30-10:30 AM in the Capitol Visitors Center, Congressional Meeting Room-South. Speakers at the briefing, hosted by the Congressional Mental Health Caucus, include:
- Joe Parks, MD, Chair, National Association of State Mental Health Program Director's Medical Council, Alexandria, VA
- Dennis Morrison, Ph.D., CEO, Centerstone Research Institute, Bloomington, IN and Nashville, TN
- Jim Balla, MBA, Executive Vice President/Chief Operating Officer, Pacific Clinics, Arcadia, CA
- Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, Washington, DC (tentative)
For more information about the National Council’s Hill Day, visit here.
The National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare is a not-for-profit, 501(c)(3) association of 1,700 behavioral healthcare organizations that provide treatment and rehabilitation for mental illnesses and addictions disorders to nearly six million adults, children and families in communities across the country. The National Council and its members bear testimony to the fact that medical, social, psychological, and rehabilitation services offered in community settings help people with mental illnesses and addiction disorders recover and lead productive lives.