IN THIS ISSUE:
- From Chuck’s Chair: If you make one New Year’s Resolution…
- Upcoming Ambassador Activities: National Council Conference 2016
- Ambassador Spotlight: Tell us your advocacy success story!
- Dispatch from Capitol Hill: Countdown to Election 2016: What to Expect from Congress in the Year Ahead
- State of Play: The latest news on National Council legislative priorities
- Briefly Noted: Interesting articles on our radar
FROM CHUCK’S CHAIR
Dear National Council Ambassadors,
Happy New Year! As we kick off 2016, I wanted to ensure that of the many resolutions you have set for yourself, joining us in Las Vegas for National Council Conference is one of them.
NatCon16 is your chance to network, attend workshops and get the latest on policy news out of DC with 4,000 of your closest friends and colleagues. This year, we are thrilled to be joined by MSNBC’s Chris Matthews as he shares with us his insights and analysis on the presidential race and what it means moving forward.
And just like last year, our Ambassadors are featured attendees at NatCon16. From special policy-focused sessions to VIP receptions, you will be treated like the superstars you are. Register today for the best deals of the year.
We can’t wait to see you in Las Vegas!
Senior Vice President, Public Policy & Practice Improvement
National Council for Behavioral Health
National Council Conference 2016
When: March 7-9, 2015
Where: Las Vegas, Nevada
If you haven’t already registered for NatCon16, March 7-9 in Las Vegas, NV, do it today! Join your colleagues at the largest behavioral health conference of the year. Register today for the best deals of the year.
New Year, New Stories to Share
As we embark on the second half of the 114th Congress, be sure to keep sharing the fantastic work you are doing so we can feature you here and share your stories with your peers!
Remember, your expertise and relationships in Congress have a huge impact on our policy agenda. For your Member of Congress, you are an expert, a resource and most importantly… a constituent. Your legislator wants to hear from you and so do we. Send us your success stories today!
DISPATCH FROM CAPITOL HILL
Countdown to Election 2016: What to Expect from Congress in the Year Ahead
With President Obama’s last State of the Union Address behind them, legislators return to session in full this week to begin the second half of the 114th Congress. As they do, we wanted to give you a glimpse into what could be in 2016.
#Fundthe24: Expanding the Excellence in Mental Health Act
Last week, it was announced that legislation will be introduced in the Senate to expand the Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics demonstration project to include all 24 planning grant states. In 2014, a demonstration program based on the Excellence in Mental Health Act was created, giving eight states the opportunity to fundamentally transform the way they provide behavioral health services. This year, mental health and addiction advocates will get the chance to support expanding this groundbreaking project to all 24 states that will apply to be included in the demonstration.
A Return to “Regular Order” for the Budget
After Congress was forced to use another 11th-hour omnibus budget deal to fund the government for Fiscal Year 2016, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan has emphasized returning to “regular order” for the 2017 budget. Regular order refers to Congress separately approving all 12 funding bills for the various federal agencies—before the start of the new fiscal year and without the need for continuing resolutions or omnibus deals. Importantly, this would allow for Members to submit a wide range of appropriation-related amendments on the House and Senate floor.
The budget agreement reached by Republicans and the White House back in October should aid Congress in restoring regular order. With top-line budget numbers finalized, congressional appropriators can shift their focus to agreeing to line-item funding figures. The 12 funding bills may also prove to be a significant opportunity to include policy riders that would otherwise be left aside in an election year. Policy riders are legislative amendments to appropriations deals. Last year, a number of policy riders – including defunding Planned Parenthood or security protocols for the refugee crisis – derailed Congress from hitting its budgetary deadline. With regular order, such amendments would be negotiated and finalized at the committee level before reaching the floor of either the House or Senate.
Bills That Can Cross the Finish Line
Among the dozens of mental health and addictions related bills introduced in 2015, the National Council has closely been monitoring a number of initiatives that could gain traction in 2016. To start, the Comprehensive Justice and Mental Health Act (S. 993/ H.R. 1854) was unanimously approved by the House Judiciary Committee this week. After being passed by the Senate in December, this measure is now just one step away from being sent to the President for his signature.
The House may consider Representative Tim Murphy’s Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act (H.R. 2646), which was approved by a health subcommittee in November. It may also act on a bipartisan, Senate-passed effort – the Mental Health Awareness Improvement Act (S. 1893) – that would reauthorize suicide prevention and mental health awareness programs. The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee is set to focus its efforts on a more comprehensive mental health reform bill, the Mental Health Reform Act (S. 1945). The measure, introduced by Senators Chris Murphy (D-CT) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA), has a Senate committee hearing on the calendar later this month.
The National Council will keep you informed about opportunities to take action on behalf of these and other important legislative initiatives. Stay tuned to our action alerts, the Ambassador Brief, and the monthly Ambassador Talking Points Toolkit.
STATE OF PLAY
Excellence in Mental Health Act
Last week, Excellence in Mental Health Act champions Senators Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) announced plans to introduce legislation expanding the Excellence Act demonstration project to all 24 planning grant states. The expansion of the two-year demonstration project will help increase access to critical behavioral health services for hundreds of thousands of Americans.
Upon introduction of this bill, the National Council will need your help to garner support of legislators from around the country. Start your advocacy today by thanking our Excellence Act champions for their leadership and continued dedication to helping those living with mental illness and addictions. Click to send a thank you email or letter to Senators Blunt and Stabenow.
How Ryan Wins, Even When He Fails. After trying over 60 times, the Republican-controlled Congress approved a repeal of the Affordable Care Act last week. While the bill was immediately vetoed upon arrival at the White House, James Arkin of RealClearPolitics says that Speaker of the House Paul Ryan walks away a victor. Read more.
Restoring regular order, criminal justice reform, and maybe a sweet spot on mental health? What’s ahead for the new Congress in 2016? Get the National Journal’s take on these issues and many more in its prospective look at Congress in the coming year. Read more.
Kentucky Gov. Bevin is dismantling Obamacare… or is he? In the wake of his campaign promise to repeal Obamacare in the Bluegrass state, Governor Bevin announced the dismantling of Kentucky’s health insurance exchange. More quietly, he also backed away from his plans for a repeal of the Medicaid expansion. Which decision matters more for uninsured Kentuckians? Vox’s Sarah Kliff breaks down the story behind the headlines.