April 22, 2010
Bill Would Expand HIT Funding to Community Behavioral Health Centers; Urge Your Representative to be a Co-Sponsor
A new bill in Congress would expand federal health information technology payments to previously ineligible community behavioral health providers and organizations. The Health Information Technology Extension for Behavioral Health Services Act of 2010 (H.R. 5040
) ensures that behavioral and mental health professionals, psychiatric hospitals, behavioral and mental health treatment facilities, and substance abuse treatment facilities will be eligible for the electronic health record incentive payments established under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
The National Council worked closely with bill author Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-RI) on the introduction of this bill. The National Council has issued a fact sheet describing the consequences of a failure to fully incorporate community behavioral health organizations into the nation’s health IT infrastructure. Click here
to read the fact sheet and view reactions to the HIT Extension Act from behavioral health industry leaders.
Rep. Kennedy and the other original sponsors of the HIT Extension Act, Representatives Tim Murphy (R-PA), Gene Green (D-TX), and Alcee Hastings (D-FL), are seeking additional cosponsors so as to build support for the bill. If you have not already done so, please contact your Representative today, and urge him or her to sign on as a cosponsor to the HIT Extension for Behavioral Health Services Act!
Health Reform: What’s in it for You?
Do you have questions about what’s in the recently enacted healthcare reform law? Unsure about how you might benefit or when you’ll begin to see the effects of reform? The National Council has released several new resources designed to help you understand the specifics of healthcare reform:
- Summary of the Health Reform Law: This summary chart provides an overview of all major provisions of interest to community behavioral health providers.
- Implementation Timeline: This document details the exact start date of each major provision that may impact community behavioral health providers.
- Issue Brief on the New Temporary High-Risk Pool for Individuals Without Insurance: Our newly updated High-Risk Pool issue brief provides key information on the rollout of the temporary high-risk insurance option enacted under health reform.
- Healthcare Reform Implementation Webinar Series: The next webinar in the series, “What is an Accountable Care Organization… And Why Should I Care?” will take place on May 14th at 1:00 p.m. eastern time. This webinar will discuss the concept of accountable care organizations, their role in healthcare reform, and how behavioral health organizations can prepare for a reshaped financing landscape.
Deadline Nears for Proposals for Dept. of Veterans Affairs Community Behavioral Health Pilot Projects
The deadline is fast approaching for a Department of Veterans Affairs program to contract with community behavioral health organizations (CBHO) to provide outpatient mental health services to veterans in selected regions of the country. This new VA pilot program was established in the Veterans Mental Health and Other Care Improvements Act, which was enacted in 2008 with the strong advocacy and support of National Council members and other advocates. The program is intended to make mental health care more accessible to returning service members of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. CBHOs in the following Veterans Integrated Service Networks (VISN) are eligible for participation:
- VISN 1: Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island
- VISN 19: Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Utah (and parts of Kansas, Nebraska and Nevada)
- VISN 20: Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Alaska
Among other services, participating CBHOs are expected to provide peer outreach and peer support services to veterans by veterans, outpatient mental health services and readjustment counseling services, and mental health day treatment services. For a full listing of all services that must be provided and a complete description of the program requirements, see the solicitation response form
available on the VA website. The deadline for proposals is May 17, 2010.
National Council Releases Behavioral Health Workforce Resources; Urges Appointment of Behavioral Health Expert to New Workforce Commission
As the implementation of healthcare reform moves forward, we can expect new opportunities and challenges for the behavioral health workforce in the years ahead. The National Council has released a fact sheet
that provides summaries of all bills introduced in the current Congressional session to address issues related to the behavioral health workforce. This document also includes information about the behavioral health workforce provisions that were included in healthcare reform.
As part of healthcare reform, Congress established a new National Workforce Advisory Commission to study and issue recommendations on the state of the country’s healthcare workforce. In the law, the behavioral health workforce was identified as a high-priority issue for the Commission. Members of the Commission must be selected by the U.S. Comptroller General by Sept. 2010. National Council President & CEO Linda Rosenberg has submitted a letter to Comptroller General Eugene Dodaro urging him to appoint an expert in behavioral health workforce issues to the Commission. You can read the full text
of her letter online.
13 Senators Sign Letter in Support of Increased Mental Health Block Grant Funding
The National Council would like to thank our members who responded to last week’s Action Alert urging your Senators to sign on to a Dear Colleague letter in support of a $100 million increase to the Community Mental Health Block Grant. You generated nearly 1,200 messages to Congress showing your strong support for increased mental health funding! Thirteen Senators signed on to the letter
: Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Bob Casey (D-PA), Russ Feingold (D-WI), Tim Johnson (D-SD), John Kerry (D-MA), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Carl Levin (D-MI), Joe Lieberman (I-CT), Jack Reed (D-RI), Charles Schumer (D-NY), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Tom Udall (D-NM), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI). Stay tuned to the Public Policy Update and National Council Action Alerts for the most recent updates and for other opportunities to protect community mental health and addiction services.
President Obama Nominates Dr. Donald Berwick to Head Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
On April 19th, President Obama announced
his nomination of Dr. Donald Berwick as Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Dr. Berwick currently serves as President and CEO of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, and is a professor at Harvard Medical School and the Harvard School of Public Health. He is also a pediatrician, adjunct staff in the Department of Medicine at Boston’s Children’s Hospital and a consultant in pediatrics at Massachusetts General Hospital. He has served as Chair of the National Advisory Council of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and as an elected member of the Institute of Medicine (IOM). Dr. Berwick served on the IOM’s governing Council from 2002 to 2007. In 1997 and 1998, he was appointed by President Clinton to serve on the Advisory Commission on Consumer Protection and Quality in the Healthcare Industry.
The CMS Administrator post has remained vacant since Obama took office, with Charlene Frizzera serving as Acting Administrator. Dr. Berwick is now awaiting confirmation by the Senate; the National Council will continue to follow the progress of his nomination in the Public Policy Update.
Medicare Pay Cut Temporarily Averted
President Obama on April 15th signed into law legislation that will temporarily prevent Medicare providers from experiencing a 21% cut in their reimbursement levels. The Continuing Extension Act of 2010 extends until May 31, 2010 a zero percent update to the Medicare Physician Fee Schedule. Without this extension, Medicare law would have required a drop in reimbursements to meet the terms of a cost-control formula included in the law. The Continuing Extension Act of 2010 is retroactive to April 1, 2010, meaning that providers will not experience a reduction in payments for any services provided between April 1-15. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services issued a statement
defending the temporary fix and noting the President’s commitment to work with Congress on a long-term solution to the yearly threat of Medicare pay reductions.
Legislators of the Year to be Honored at Hill Day 2010
Each year, the National Council honors several Members of Congress with our Legislator of the Year award. Award winners are selected for their outstanding work in behavioral health policy and are recognized for their efforts at a special Awards Reception during our annual Hill Day. The National Council is pleased to announce our 2010 award winners:
- Sen. Debbie Stabenow (MI) - Behavioral Health Champion
- Sen. Al Franken (MN) - Legislator of the Year
- Sen. Robert Menendez (NJ) - Legislator of the Year
- Sen. Lisa Murkowski (AK) - Legislator of the Year
- Rep. Eliot Engel (NY-17) - Legislator of the Year
- Rep. Doris Matsui (CA-5) - Legislator of the Year
- Rep. Sue Myrick (NC-9) - Legislator of the Year
We hope you will join us
for the Congressional Awards Reception on June 29th in Washington, D.C. to show our appreciation for the Legislators of the Year! If your legislator is being honored, please write him or her a note to say thank you
for his/her persistent and powerful leadership on behalf of persons living with mental health and substance use disorders and the provider organizations that treat and support them.