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chucks-chair-webDear National Council Ambassadors,

The 2014 passage of the Excellence in Mental Health Act demonstration program was a testament to the power of advocacy. With support from thousands of behavioral health providers and stakeholders from around the country, Congress enacted the most sweeping investment in our nation’s mental health and addiction treatment system in generations.

Now, the continued success of this law rests once again on you. We need advocates in every state to make sure their state applies to participate – and to inform states as they develop their certification and payment criteria. Take a look at this month’s Dispatch from Capitol Hill to learn the top 5 things you can do to build support for the Excellence Act in your state.

Thank you for all that you do!

Chuck Ingoglia
Senior Vice President, Public Policy & Practice Improvement


upcoming-activities-webNational Council Hill Day 2015

When: October 5-6, 2015
Where: Register online here!

This is your moment to shine. All year you have been building relationships with your members of Congress and now is the culmination of your hard work. National Council Hill Day 2015 will have over 500 advocates from 8 organizations descending upon Capitol Hill, joining the largest behavioral health advocacy day of the year. Register here and show off your superstar advocacy skills!

Ambassador Talking Points: A Toolkit for Meeting with Your Elected Officials

When: June 24, 2015
Where: Your Inbox

Later this month, the Ambassador Talking Points will provide you a deep-dive on engaging with legislators while they are home in your districts during the various summer recesses. These times at home are a perfect opportunity to schedule a meeting, bring them out for a site visit, or attend a town hall event.


Congratulations to this month’s outstanding Ambassador, Peggy Terhune

Where: North Carolina

What: As Executive Director and CEO of Monarch, Peggy has been working with staff to build a relationship with Senator Thom Tillis. Despite initial pushback, her and her team were able to meet with Senator Tillis’ office and educate staff about the Mental Health First Aid Act and share with them why supporting mental health and addictions legislation is so important. In addition to her great political advocacy, Peggy also spent time promoting the Ambassador Network at NatCon15 in Orlando!

How you can do this too: Don’t get discouraged! Building relationships with elected officials can take time, but it is important to take the first step. Meeting with staff will give you an opportunity to share who you are, the work you do, and why your issues are important to their boss. It also gives staff a chance to learn more about the topic, your organization, and find out what a valuable resource you can be!

Want to be featured here? Share your advocacy story with us today!



Your Advocacy Doesn’t Stop on Capitol Hill

When Congress passed the Excellence in Mental Health Act last March, it was the biggest legislative accomplishment we’ve seen in years. Your advocacy played a critical role in that victory – and now, we are calling on advocates to speak up once again as implementation turns to the states. Each state is currently deciding whether to take advantage of this tremendous opportunity, and they need to hear from YOU!

First, some quick background: the Obama Administration has released its Excellence Act implementation guidance and the application materials for states to receive planning funds. The planning grant is more than just a prerequisite for being selected as one of the demonstration states for the Excellence Act. It is an opportunity for providers to engage with their states in assessing delivery system gaps and opportunities for improving care. This federal funding will help strengthen our system that has been plagued for decades by drastic underfunding of critically important treatment and services.

Sounds great. Won’t every state apply? Not necessarily. And that’s where you come in – as a leader in your community, you can help make the case that your state must not miss out on this important opportunity!

Here are the top 5 things you can do today:

  1. Get in touch with your state mental health or addiction treatment association to let them know you want to help and find out what kind of organizational efforts are already underway. (Check out this tracking map to see where your state is in the application process. Is your state green? Thank them for applying with this template letter.)
  2. Use our CCBHC Readiness Tool to begin assessing whether your organization is prepared to meet the criteria outlined in the Excellence Act. This will help you not only to evaluate your own preparedness, but also to work with your state in crafting certification and payment methodologies that account for the realities of your day-to-day service delivery needs.
  3. Develop the “business case” for how the Excellence Act can help improve population health while bringing down costs in your state. (Take a look at our reports on demonstrating the business case for mental health and substance use services.)
  4. Pitch your case to your Governor’s office, Medicaid office, and state mental health and substance abuse authorities. All of them must be on board for your state to apply! Need inspiration? Here’s a template letter you can send.
  5. Let the National Council know how we can help. Contact Chuck IngogliaNina Marshall or Rebecca Farley on our staff with questions about the Excellence Act, advice on how to craft your planning grant application, tips on assessing your organization’s readiness to participate, and much more.

Everything you do to encourage your state to apply for the Excellence Act planning grants won’t just help you become a demonstration state. It will also play a crucial role in supporting the National Council’s advocacy efforts here on Capitol Hill, where we’re working with congressional champions to extend the Excellence Act to every state in the nation.



Excellence in Mental Health Act

The countdown is on to August 5, 2015: the deadline for states to apply for Excellence in Mental Health Act Planning Grants. As states across the country begin preparing to submit applications, the National Council wants to make sure you have everything you need to be ready to become a Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic (CCBHC). The National Council is pleased to offer resources including: an MTM CCBHC Readiness Assessment tool, a deep-dive on the Prospective Payment System options, and a webinar for all other questions you may have.


Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act

Congressional support for the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) continues to grow. As of the end of May, CARA has 30 bipartisan cosponsors across both houses of Congress. This legislation invests much needed funding in prevention, evidence-based treatment and recovery supports to help Americans struggling with addictions disorders. Check out this updated fact sheet to see if your member has signed on as a cosponsor.


Mental Health First Aid Act

May was Mental Health Month on Capitol Hill and to celebrate the National Council hosted a briefing on for Congressional staff, educating them on the benefits of Mental Health First Aid. The briefing provided staff with an overview of the Mental Health First Aid course and details on the recently reintroduced Mental Health First Aid Act (S.711/H.R.1877). Check out our updated fact sheet to see if your member has signed on to support Mental Health First Aid.


Addictions is a Hot Topic on Capitol Hill

Last month, members of the Senate introduced a myriad of legislation aimed at curbing the addiction and opioid epidemic. These efforts infuse critical funds into the public health system, establish meaningful safeguards for prescribers and patients, and protect individuals’ access to health care as they re-enter their communities after incarceration.



What’s Moving on the Hill – and How You Can Be the Gas in the Engine, by Al Guida, Guide Consulting

The Ambassadors Brief is designed to give you news you can use as you develop and utilize relationships with your members of Congress. But even with this great information, it is important to understand the political environment we are in and know how best to make your argument.  To help with that, we enlisted advocacy guru and federal mental health and addictions policy expert, Alfonso Guida, to provide an update on what’s moving in Congress and share insider tips and tricks on how to make your case to your elected officials.

  • Make the economic argument.
    • In this tightening fiscal climate, it is important to recognize the financials of any ask.
    • Educate the staffer in the reality of the cost of treating those with mental illness.
    • Uncontrolled comorbidities among patients with serious mental illness means these patients are often among the highest quartile of Medicaid spending. Investing in treatment and early intervention lowers the long term cost of care and is better for the overall well-being of patients with these conditions.
  • Know your audience.
    • Hill staff are often young – usually between the ages of 25-32 years old. Take time in the beginning of your meetings to gauge their knowledge of the mental health and substance use conditions and policies. Be ready to explain to them in lay terms how these conditions affect patients, families and communities in your state and district.
  • Give your story a relatable face.
    • Make mental health and substance use conditions relatable to the staffer. Be ready to explain in lay terms how these conditions manifest themselves and the impairments that stem from these conditions.
    • The better they understand the problems and issues at hand, the better positioned they are to work with their boss on your ask.
  • Share your story.
    • Take 3-10 minutes to provide background on you and your organization, the problem you are there to discuss, and the solution before making your ask.
    • Tell the staffer who you are, your organization’s location, the number of patients you serve, the number of employees you have, and explain the kind of services you offer. Providing this context is necessary for the staffer and legislator to understand how important your organization is to your community.
  • Then make your ask!
    • Be direct and give the staffer an actionable item to take back to their boss.


briefly-noted-webHere are a few thought-provoking articles and resources that we’ve come across recently.  Happy reading!

“I’m Just a Bill” in 2015: Everyone remembers the Schoolhouse Rock video showing how a bill becomes a law. Spoiler alert: that isn’t the way it works anymore (or maybe ever did). Earlier this month, Vox released an updated version of that video that shows how a bill becomes a law in 2015. Check it out here.

When big business doesn’t rule politics. “In short, business doesn’t always get its way. It may be countered by politically skilled and sophisticated opponents from within and outside government, attract unfavorable publicity, or face the more mundane but significant challenge of dislodging the policy status quo.” This Washington Post article shares how big business may not have all the power in Washington. Read more here.