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Ambassadors Brief: September 2014

In This Issue:

FROM CHUCK’S CHAIR

chucks-chair-webDear National Council Ambassadors,

How did your meetings with your legislators go during the August recess? We’d love to hear about them! Please share a quick summary with our team by using this online feedback form or sending me an email at chucki@thenationalcouncil.org.

Now that Congress is back in town, lawmakers are attempting to pass an appropriation bill to keep the government open and considering other legislation. The National Council is working to build support to protect behavioral health funding in 2015 and beyond, and the relationships you develop with your legislators will be critical to these efforts.

We’re also advocating for the Breaking Addiction Act, new legislation to strengthen substance use treatment capacity that will benefit individuals in need of treatment, their families and communities, as well as the criminal justice system, (check out State of Play for the latest updates on our legislative agenda).

In our fight to strengthen the behavioral health safety net, every contact you make with your legislators helps! If you weren’t able to connect with your reps during the August recess, you’ll have plenty more opportunities during October when they’re home for their campaigns.

Thank you for all that you do.

Sincerely,

Chuck Ingoglia
Senior Vice President, Public Policy & Practice Improvement


UPCOMING ACTIVITIES

upcoming-activities-webOctober 15: Ambassadors Network Quarterly Call

When:                  Wednesday, October 15, 2014, 3:00 PM EDT
Where:                 Register online here

Please join us for this call as we debrief on your August meetings and discuss upcoming opportunities to speak with your legislators about your priorities. We’ll also be doing some live polling to get your feedback on what’s working – and what we can improve – with the Ambassadors Network.


DISPATCH FROM CAPITOL HILL

dispatch-webLast year at this time, all of Washington DC was consumed with one question: will congressional deadlock over the budget lead to a government shutdown on October 1? Unfortunately, the answer was “yes” – and the government embarked upon a 16-day closure with countless services disrupted, 800,000 employees furloughed and 1.3 million required to report to work without guarantee of pay.

This year, Congress seems determined not to repeat its mistakes of 2013. Once again, lawmakers failed to enact the yearly spending bills before the September 30 deadline – yet now, the big question occupying all minds on Capitol Hill is how long Congress will extend current-year funding into the new fiscal year. Different scenarios for this continuing resolution (CR) will have different effects on federal funding for substance use and mental health care.

budget-scenarios-graphic1

How Congress chooses to proceed after the midterm elections will depend in large part upon whether the balance of power between the parties changes to an extent that would give either party greater leverage in budget negotiations. Some conservatives, hoping for a shift in control of the Senate, are advocating a CR that extends well into the new year, giving a new Senate the opportunity to crack down on spending. Other conservatives support wrapping up 2015 negotiations during the lame duck and starting afresh in January.

Meanwhile, Democrats – with little hope of winning control of the House – are banking on keeping control of the Senate so they can negotiate a more favorable 2015 budget. Even in this scenario, liberals who dream of major new investments in the budget will likely be disappointed, as the 2011 sequestration caps remain in place and political pressures to freeze or cut spending continue.

Whatever happens November 4, one thing is clear: mental health and substance use advocates will need to play strong defense on appropriations to prevent cuts to SAMHSA and other agencies that support behavioral health initiatives. The National Council will continue to keep you updated as the appropriations process rolls out and opportunities arise to take action.


STATE OF PLAY

state-play-webBreaking Addictions Act. The National Council is working with Congresswoman Marcia Fudge (D-OH) to host a congressional briefing on the continuum of substance use care and the need to permit Medicaid payment for substance use treatment in certain residential settings. Read more about the Breaking Addiction Act and ask for your legislator’s support here.

Substance Use Funding and Other 2015 Appropriations Priorities. A planned House vote to prevent a repeat of last year’s government shutdown has been derailed in the wake of President Obama’s request for funding to arm and train fighters against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Read more on Capitol Connector.

Excellence in Mental Health Act. This month, National Council staff continued meeting with House and Senate staff to discuss Excellence Act implementation and state preparedness. Are you working with state officials to plan your state’s application? Please let us know if you have questions or need assistance.

Mental Health First Aid. The National Council has released our updated legislative toolkit to support state-level efforts to invest in Mental Health First Aid. The toolkit includes sample legislative language, talking points, a 2013-2014 State Policy Tracking Chart, and much more.

Mental Health and Substance Use Parity. The National Council partnered with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention to host a congressional briefing on our new joint tools to help consumers navigate their insurance coverage and their rights under parity. Read more on Capitol Connector.


ADVICE AND COUNSEL

advice-counsel-webElection Day 2014 is fast approaching! Most tax-exempt organizations are prohibited from advocating the election of any particular candidate or party. However, you are not precluded from encouraging everyone to participate in the election. Many National Council members organize voter registration drives to help get their clients registered to vote. Here’s how you can do the same.

Why encourage individuals to register?

  • Your clients understand and value increased access to behavioral health services and substance use treatment and counseling.  For many of them, the availability of such services will be a “voting issue,” that is, they will consider candidates’ views on these important issues when deciding for whom to vote;
  • The more voters who cast their ballot at least partially based on a candidate’s views on access to mental health services, the stronger we will become;
  • Voting is an important aspect of participating in society.  If your clients and their families join in voting on Election Day, everyone will benefit.

Many websites and programs exist to help answer any questions you may have about voter registration.  The National Council works closely with www.nonprofitvote.org, and we strongly recommend the vast resources on the site for your review. There are some great ideas about how best to go about setting up voter registration in your facilities, some downloadable materials for posting onsite, and webinars on how to make it all work.

You can also access voter registration rules and materials for every state through the Nonprofit Vote site here.

As always, the National Council is standing by to help you with any questions you may have.


BRIEFLY NOTED

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

The Three Words That Shift Views On Medicaid – Morning Consult polling shows using the term “Affordable Care Act” can make a difference in how a voter feels about expanding Medicaid, to the tune of 9 percentage points. Read more.

San Antonio Police Have Radical Approach to Mental Illness:  Treat ItKaiser Health News and National Public Radio describe one city’s mission: train police to deal with people with serious mental illness, keep those people out of jail, and get them into treatment instead.  Read more.

Has the Health Law Helped Young People Get Mental Health Treatment? – A study in the September issue of Health Affairs examines whether the Affordable Care Act provision that allows children to stay on their parents’ health plan until age 26 has helped more young adults get help with mental health issues.  Read more.

Obamacare Losing Power as Campaign Weapon in Ad BattlesBloomberg Businessweek looks at the power or the Affordable Care Act as a campaign issue for Republicans… and for Democrats. The results might surprise you. Read more.