National Council for Behavioral Health

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Your source for the latest updates from Capitol Hill. We translate policy into practice so you can learn how policy trends will affect your work and how best to prepare.

Latest COVID-19 Response Bill Supports Behavioral Health Providers

March 26, 2020 | COVID-19 | Comments
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Michael Petruzzelli

Director, Federal Policy & Advocacy

Early Thursday morning, the Senate unanimously passed Congress’s third COVID-19 response package aimed largely at providing economic relief for businesses and workers. The bill features multiple direct supports for behavioral health providers, including direct relief to cover lost provider revenue, small business loans, more money for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), and funds to improve the delivery of telemedicine and an extension and two-state expansion of the Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic (CCBHC) program. As of this writing, the House is expected to vote on and pass the bill on Friday, and President Trump has signaled that he will sign it quickly into law. Stay tuned for further updates in Capitol Connector next week.

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National Council Represents Members’ COVID-19 Concerns on the Federal Level

March 26, 2020 | COVID-19 | Comments
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Shelley Starkey

In response to the COVID-19 global pandemic, the National Council has listened to our members and amplified their voices on the federal level with Congress and leadership in the Trump administration. We have joined with coalitions of other national advocacy groups to pass on recommendations to the federal government, we have mobilized our grassroots advocates to reach out to their Members of Congress, and we have begun compiling countless resources on everything from caring for your personal mental health to guides for continuing to run your businesses through this ever-changing legislative landscape. Don’t hesitate to reach out with your needs or concerns, and read more to learn about our efforts to date.

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Federal Government Mobilizes Wide-Ranging Coronavirus Response Initiatives

March 20, 2020 | COVID-19 | Take Action | Comments
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Shelley Starkey

As the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic continues impacting every corner of society, Congressional leadership and leaders in the Trump Administration are mobilizing wide-ranging supports that have direct impacts on the behavioral health field and the National Council’s members. Congress passed its second response bill this week and is now turning its attention to a third legislative package, as various federal agencies provide clarity and increased flexibility to health care and other industries. The National Council has been hearing from our members about their biggest challenges and we are working hard to educate lawmakers and the Administration about the behavioral health field’s needs.

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Advocates Head to Capitol Hill in Support of CCBHCs

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Shelley Starkey

On Wednesday, the National Council hosted nearly 90 advocates from 20 states to continue the legislative momentum to extend and expand the Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic (CCBHC) program. The CCBHC Medicaid demonstration is currently operating in 8 states with clinics in 13 additional states receiving grant funding to implement the CCBHC model. The Excellence in Mental Health and Addiction Treatment Expansion Act (S. 824/ H.R. 1767) would extend the demonstration in the original 8 states for two years, while expanding the program to the other 11 that applied but were not originally selected. The CCBHC program is currently set to expire on May 22, 2019 without Congressional action.

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Congressional Briefing Highlights Impact of CCBHC Model

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Malka Berro

Policy Associate

On March 11th, 150 Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic (CCBHC) advocates, congressional staffers, and members of the press, as well as 3,500 people online, gathered in the Senate’s historic Kennedy Caucus Room to support the extension and expansion of the CCBHC demonstration. Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Roy Blunt (R-MO) kicked off the event, highlighting the critical need for action as the demonstration’s funding expires on May 22, 2020. This event was part of a two day fly-in, where CCBHCs from around the country came to advocate for the Excellence in Mental Health and Addiction Treatment Expansion Act (S. 824/H.R. 1767), which would extend the program for two years and expand it to eleven additional states.

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Supreme Court Will Hear Challenge to Affordable Care Act

March 5, 2020 | ACA | Comments
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Natalie Weiner

Manager, Policy & Advocacy

The U.S. Supreme Court decided to review Texas v. United States, the court case challenging the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). A ruling in favor of the plaintiffs would invalidate the entire law, leaving an estimated 20 million people uninsured. It is unclear how the timing will align with the November elections.

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House Subcommittee Examines Slate of SUD Legislation

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Shelley Starkey

On Tuesday, the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health held a hearing on “Combating an Epidemic: Legislation to Help Patients with Substance Use Disorders.” The Subcommittee heard from a slate of panelists including officials from the Department of Health and Human Services, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and the Drug Enforcement Administration as well as professionals from various health providers and national advocacy organizations. The hearing also included discussion of a slate of 14 bills covering a broad range of approaches to address the addiction crisis in America.

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Tell Your Story at Hill Day 2020

February 27, 2020 | Hill Day | Comments
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Malka Berro

Policy Associate

Twenty-one million people in the U.S. currently struggle with substance use disorders. Mental illness touches the lives of one in five Americans, and suicide rates have been steadily rising for the past decade. Your advocacy can make a difference in the lives of the countless individuals who need support – use your voice this year with hundreds of your fellow advocates at Hill Day 2020  – June 23-24 in Washington, D.C.

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Experts Weigh in on Continued Efforts to Address Opioid Epidemic

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Shelley Starkey

On Wednesday, The Hill convened policymakers and medical experts to discuss steps to expand access to treatment and help those living with opioid addiction begin the journey toward long-term recovery. During a conversation with Representative Paul Tonko (D-NY), Editor-at-Large Steve Clemons praised the National Council for its work to bridge the gap between mental health and addiction treatment and highlighted the Excellence in Mental Health and Addiction Treatment Expansion Act (S. 824/ H.R. 1767) as a legislative effort to address these issues.

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Circuit Court Upholds Decision to Strike Down Arkansas Medicaid Work Requirements

February 20, 2020 | Medicaid | Waivers/SPAs | Comments
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Shelley Starkey

Last week, a federal appeals court unanimously upheld a lower court’s ruling that found work requirements for Medicaid enrollees in Arkansas do not advance the purpose of the health program, blocking the proposal in the state. Although the ruling applies only to Arkansas’s work requirements, it is likely to set a precedent for other legal challenges currently facing a slew of other states that have sought to implement similar proposals following guidance issued by the Trump Administration early last year. The National Council appreciates the work of fellow advocates standing against these harmful work requirements that make it harder for people with substance use disorders and mental illness to receive the care they need.

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White House Releases FY 2021 Budget Request

February 13, 2020 | Federal Budget | Comments
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Natalie Weiner

Manager, Policy & Advocacy

On Monday the Trump Administration released its Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 budget request which totals $4.8 trillion. The proposal includes significant nondefense discretionary cuts including a nine percent cut to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and its agencies. The proposed budget does, however, include $906 million to extend the Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic (CCBHC) demonstration program as well as $225 million in CCBHC expansion grants. These funds would enable CCBHCs to continue offering the full range of required mental health and addiction treatment services. Despite the positive signal of support for CCBHCs, the budget also includes major cuts to Medicaid and other critical behavioral health programs that would significantly harm Americans living with mental illness and addiction.

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Bipartisan Criminal Justice, Mental Health Bill Introduce in House and Senate

February 13, 2020 | Justice | Mental Health | Comments
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Michael Petruzzelli

Director, Federal Policy & Advocacy

New bipartisan legislation would provide aid and resources to the intersection of our nation’s mental health providers and criminal justice system. The Crisis Stabilization and Community Reentry Act would authorize $10 million in grants to communities to create collaborative programs involving justice agencies and community-based behavioral health providers, including Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics (CCBHCs). It would also create a national technical assistance center to serve communities around the country.

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Members of Congress Address Mental Health Crisis at Kennedy Forum Event

February 13, 2020 | Mental Health | Parity | Comments
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Natalie Weiner

Manager, Policy & Advocacy

The Kennedy Forum hosted “Agenda for Change: Unite. Connect. Act.” last week, an event on Capitol Hill featuring members of congress, advocates, consumers, and philanthropists who discussed the current mental health crisis and steps for action.

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Take Action: Support 9-8-8 as National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

February 7, 2020 | Mental Health | Comments
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Michael Petruzzelli

Director, Federal Policy & Advocacy

This week, the National Council submitted comments to the Federal Communications Commission in support of the Commission’s unanimous vote to designate 9-8-8 as the three-digit dialing code for a national suicide prevention and mental health crisis hotline system. Advocates have an opportunity to submit their own support comments to the FCC before the February 14th deadline.

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ONDCP Releases 2020 National Drug Control Strategy and Rural Toolkit

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Malka Berro

Policy Associate

The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) recently released its annual report on the National Drug Control Strategy as well as a new toolkit to assist rural communities in responding to the addiction crisis. The 2020 National Strategy prioritizes increasing access to Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) and supporting those in recovery with peer services, access to housing, training, education, and employment.

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GAO Report Highlights Barriers to MAT Access in Medicaid

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Shelley Starkey

Although Medicaid is one of the largest sources of coverage for individuals receiving medication-assisted treatment (MAT), an evidence-based best practice for treating opioid use disorder (OUD), there remain some roadblocks for patients to access the life-saving treatment. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report last week highlighting state and federal policy barriers for Medicaid enrollees to access MAT. GAO also included recommendations that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) ensure that states comply with federal requirements to cover MAT medications.

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Update on ACA Legal Status

January 16, 2020 | ACA | Comments
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Natalie Weiner

Manager, Policy and Advocacy

The U.S. Supreme Court is set to decide whether to expedite a review of Texas v. United States, the court case challenging the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). A ruling in favor of the plaintiffs would invalidate the entire law, leaving an estimated 20 million people uninsured ahead of the November 2020 elections. […]

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House Committee Convenes Panel on State Efforts to Address the Opioid Crisis

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Malka Berro

Policy Associate

This week, the House Energy and Commerce Committee held a hearing on how states have used federal funds to address the opioid epidemic. Representatives from five state departments of health spoke on successes through increased Medication-Assisted Treatment, Medicaid expansion, and interventions for justice-involved populations, as well as the critical need for further financial investment, prevention […]

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What to Expect for Behavioral Health in 2020

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Shelley Starkey

From funding for Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics to state Medicaid waivers, 2020 is sure to be a whirlwind for behavioral health and for the health care system at large. While Congress remains split down party lines with Democratic control of the House and Republican control of the Senate, time will tell if any large changes will happen during this election year. Here is a preview of what is likely ahead in health policy in the first year of the new decade.

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Congress Passes FY 2020 Funding

December 20, 2019 | Federal Budget | Comments
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Malka Berro

Policy Associate

This week, Congress passed a set of bills that appropriate federal funding for Fiscal Year (FY) 2020. These bills are now with President Trump, and he is expected to sign them into law before the deadline at midnight, Friday, December 20. FY 2020 behavioral health funding prioritizes efforts to address the opioid crisis and increases funding for Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics (CCBHCs) and behavioral health research.

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