Senate Releases COVID-19 Relief Package
On Monday, Senate Republicans introduced a series of bills in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The series of proposals – collectively named the Health, Economic Assistance, Liability Protection and Schools (HEALS) Act – were drafted by the chairs of various committees of jurisdiction including Senate HELP, Finance, Small Business and Entrepreneurship and Appropriations. The HEALS Act totals nearly $1 trillion in relief aid and is the starting point for bipartisan negotiations between the House and Senate as they look to finalize a deal as quickly as possible.
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2,000 Advocates Join National Council’s First Ever Virtual Hill Day at Home
This week, the National Council partnered with 29 national advocacy organizations to host our first ever Hill Day at Home. Due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, Hill Day 2020 was hosted virtually, making advocating for individuals living with mental illness and addiction more accessible than ever. A record-breaking 2,000 advocates from across the nation joined Hill Day at Home, reaching 511 Members of Congress with our policy asks. If you weren’t able to join live, you can access presentations and exhibitors’ information until July 23, and there is still time to reach out to your legislators – encouraging their support for a number of legislative priorities that are important to the behavioral health community.
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National Council Announces 2020 Legislators of the Year
The National Council for Behavioral Health is pleased to announce this year’s legislative honorees for Hill Day at Home 2020. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) and Representative David Trone (D-MD) are each receiving the National Council’s Legislator of the Year Award in recognition of their hard work and dedicated commitment to the mental health and addiction community. The National Council and its partners will honor both legislators at our Virtual Policy Institute on Tuesday June 23rd. Register today to join us in honoring these two Congressional leaders and thank them for their continued support.
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House Unveils COVID-19 Response Proposal
The House of Representatives this week proposed a $3 trillion COVID-19 response package, called the Health Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act. The bill includes a number of provisions that would support behavioral health providers, including $3 billion for various programs within the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, $100 billion for the Health Care Provider Relief Fund, as well as a codified application process and formula for providers to access the funds, eligibility expansions for nonprofits in the Paycheck Protection Program, and more. Although these provisions are steps forward for the nation’s coronavirus response, the National Council continues to push for more direct supports for behavioral health providers, including our main ask of $38.5 billion in emergency funds.
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Congress Passes “Phase 3.5” COVID-19 Response Package
Congress has reached a $475 billion deal on a “Phase 3.5” legislative package to provide funding for pressing needs in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The deal provides an additional $310 billion for the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which recently ran out of funds, as well as another $10 billion for the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program. It also provides $75 billion for health care providers via the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund, supplementing the $100 billion provided in the CARES Act. The bill now moves to President Trump’s desk for his signature, which is expected as early as today.
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Advocates Continue Speaking Up for Behavioral Health on Federal Level
As Congress and federal agencies continue their work to provide economic relief for businesses and nonprofits as well as to address the unique public health challenges the country faces through the COVID-19 pandemic, the National Council and countless other vocal advocates have been bringing our voices to the table to ensure that mental health and addiction treatment providers and their patients have their needs met during these challenging times. From requests for $38.5 billion in direct emergency funds for mental health and addiction treatment providers and organizations to highlighting long-held legislative priorities, the National Council has listened to our members’ needs and has made moves to meet them.
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Federal Advocacy Groups Urge Continued Support for Behavioral Health During Pandemic
The National Council continued its advocacy efforts this week with legislators and administration officials, urging the allocation of nearly $40 billion in emergency funds for providers of mental health and addiction treatment services. National Council President and CEO Chuck Ingoglia participated in a call with the White House on Thursday and spoke directly to President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence about the field’s needs for emergency appropriations to avert a large-scale public health calamity. We are also actively engaging with Congress, leadership in the Trump Administration, and state and local leaders to ensure fixes to the continued problems our members have made us aware of, including increasing access to telehealth services and equipment and expanding crisis stabilization services across the country.
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Financial Relief for Behavioral Health Organizations Available In Response to the Pandemic
Last Friday, President Trump signed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act into law, creating opportunities for small businesses and non-profits to apply for certain loans and tax credits that will help relieve the financial burden of the COVID-19 pandemic. Read more for summaries of the new provisions.
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Latest COVID-19 Response Bill Supports Behavioral Health Providers
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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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