IN THIS ISSUE:
- From Chuck’s Chair: A Lot Has Changed in Eight Months
- Upcoming Ambassador Activities: National Council Conference 2016
- Ambassador Spotlight: Daniel Mumbauer, High Point Treatment Center
- Dispatch from Capitol Hill: The President’s Budget is Dead, Long Live the President’s Budget
- 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,
A lot can change in eight months.
When we were last in Washington, D.C. for National Council Hill Day 2015, there were almost 30 candidates for President, comprehensive reform legislation had only been introduced, and Excellence in Mental Health Act expansion was still just a grassroots campaign. (#Fundthe24!)
But come June 6-7 at Hill Day 2016, all of that will be different.
We will be just a few months away from Election Day 2016 and legislators will be getting ready to complete their final push of the 114th Congress. Key pieces of legislation – like the Expand Excellence in Mental Health Act (S. 2525/H.R. 4567) and the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (S. 524/H.R. 953) – will be moving their way closer to passage. And hundreds of behavioral health advocates will once again descend upon Capitol Hill making their voices heard in the halls of Congress.
Register today to secure your spot at Hill Day 2016. It’s free. It’s fun. And it makes a difference.
Senior Vice President, Public Policy & Practice Improvement
National Council for Mental Wellbeing
National Council Conference 2016
When: March 7-9, 2015
Where: Las Vegas, Nevada
NatCon16 is right around the corner. And just like last year, our Ambassadors will be featured attendees in Las Vegas. To kick off the event, we invite you to a special VIP reception on Sunday, March 6 at 6pm. RSVP to Michael Petruzzelli at MichaelP@thenationalcouncil.org by Friday, February 19.
Congratulations to this month’s outstanding Ambassador: Daniel Mumbauer
Where: Bedford, MA
What: During a breakfast meeting with Congressman Bill Keating (D-MA) last month, Daniel discussed the importance of fully funding substance use and mental health treatment programming. Congressman Keating has signed on as a cosponsor to the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (S. 524/ H.R. 953) which would infuse millions of dollars in needed funding for addiction treatment programs.
How can you do this too: Check out our Ambassador Resources page for templates on reaching out to your Members of Congress. Attend an event, book a meeting, or just shoot them an email. Connect with your legislators any way you can to begin building relationships that will last. And as always, let us know what advocacy you do so we can follow-up with their offices in Washington, D.C.
Want to be featured? Send us your success stories today!
DISPATCH FROM CAPITOL HILL
The President’s Budget is Dead, Long Live the President’s Budget
Last week, President Obama released the final Congressional budget recommendations of his administration. These recommendations lay out the President’s vision of what the government can and should be capable of achieving in this and future years. However, even before the budget proposal’s release, Congressional Republicans indicated it was dead on arrival. So clear were Republicans in rejecting the President’s proposal, House and Senate Budget Committees have declined to hold the traditional annual hearings where White House Budget Officials present and defend the budget to Congress.
So that’s it. The President’s budget is dead on arrival. But then again, maybe it’s not.
Remember, back in October, the White House and Congressional Republicans came together to pass a bipartisan, two-year budget deal that set topline spending numbers for the remainder of President Obama’s administration. The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 added $80 billion in discretionary spending, effectively suspending a majority of sequestration cuts for 2017. The deal also raised the debt ceiling and provided both parties political cover as they worked to finalize line item budget totals for FY2016.
The President’s proposed FY2017 budget works under these same financial constraints and offers just one version of how to prioritize spending this fixed amount of money. Despite the overarching rhetoric that the budget is dead on arrival, it is very possible that specific programs and budget totals from the proposal reappear as Congress works through the months-long appropriations process. With the House indicating that it intends to restore “regular order” to the budget making process, Members of Congress who support the President’s priorities will have ample opportunity to push for budget allocations to be distributed according to his plan.
There may be few, if any, large-scale victories for either party to tout this budget cycle. As the general election draws near, it may become increasingly difficult for legislators to achieve or agree upon substantial gains. This could, in turn, result in a stalled appropriations process and the need for a continuing budget resolution to get hold the country through past Election Day 2016. While the President’s budget may not have all the answers – it is as good a place as any to start the conversation.
STATE OF PLAY
Excellence in Mental Health Act
Last week, Senators Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Representatives Leonard Lance (R-NJ) and Doris Matsui (D-CA) introduced legislation to expand the Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic (CCBHC) demonstration project based on the Excellence in Mental Health Act. The Expand Excellence in Mental Health Act (S. 2525/H.R. 4567) will extend funding to all 24 Excellence Act planning grant states. The National Council led the charge in bringing together more than 50 national advocacy organizations in supporting this critical initiative. Moving forward, stay tuned to our action alerts, the Ambassador Brief, and the monthly Ambassador Talking Points Toolkit for ways to get involved in supporting expanding this important project.
Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act
On Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously approved the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) (S. 524/ H.R. 953). A top legislative priority of the National Council, CARA would reauthorize existing and create new programs to provide desperately needed funds to support community-based addiction treatment. To date, CARA has nearly 100 bipartisan, bicameral cosponsors and has now been sent to the full Senate body for further consideration. Is your legislator a cosponsor? Find out here.
New Hampshire Forum Focuses on Addiction. Last week, the Addiction Policy Forum hosted a roundtable style event in New Hampshire to discuss the nation’s ongoing opioid abuse epidemic. The speaker list included presidential candidates, state and local government officials, community leaders and national advocates – including the National Council for Mental Wellbeing’s Vice President of Addictions, Becky Vaughn. Read what she and others suggested has to be done to address this epidemic. Read more.
President Obama Pens Article Defending Addictions Funding. “This crisis doesn’t discriminate. It touches everybody — men and women, young and old, rich and poor; urban, suburban and rural alike,” said President Obama in the article. “It affects the coal miner or construction worker who takes pain medications for a work-related injury — or the doctor who writes them the prescription. So we need to address this disease like we would any other — through effective prevention and treatment.” Read more.