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Rebecca Farley

Director, Policy & Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

House Passes Medicare Bill Including Excellence Act; Bill Goes to Senate

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The House today voted to pass a compromise Medicare physician payment bill (H.R. 4302) that includes an 8-state demonstration program based on the bipartisan Excellence in Mental Health Act. The bill now moves to the Senate for consideration.

The National Council applauded the House’s approval of the Excellence Act in the Medicare bill and urged our members to write to their Senators in support of the legislation. With the bill on the edge of a vote, NOW is the time to speak up! Please click here to let your Senators know about your support and urge them to vote yes.

The Excellence Act, sponsored by Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Roy Blunt (R-MO) along with Representatives Doris Matsui (D-CA) and Leonard Lance (R-NJ), would improve quality and expand access to mental health care and substance use treatment through community behavioral health clinics. The legislation would establish a two year demonstration program in eight states to offer a broad range of mental health and substance abuse services like 24-hour crisis psychiatric services while setting new high standards for providers. The eight states would be identified through a selection process to be defined in future rulemaking.

“After decades of devastating state and federal budget cuts, the time has come to reinvest in mental health and substance abuse services. The Excellence Act does just that.” said Linda Rosenberg, President and CEO of the National Council for Mental Wellbeing. “As many as 240,000 people will be able to receive critical mental and behavioral health services as a result of Excellence Act funding. When people receive the quality mental health and substance abuse services they need, the benefits of treatment extend far beyond the individual – to their families, their professional colleagues and their community at large. We are all better off when quality mental health and substance abuse services are available. This is an historic day and it would not have been possible without the tireless work of Senator Debbie Stabenow and the bill’s bipartisan sponsors.”

The National Council has long been a champion of the Excellence Act, which expands access to evidenced-based community health care for children and adults with serious and persistent mental illnesses. If enacted, the legislation will reduce high hospital emergency room utilization among persons living with behavioral health conditions while easing the burden on hard-pressed law enforcement agencies in urban and rural areas. Additionally, the Excellence Act demonstration will assist the Veterans Administration (VA) with serving the young men and women returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with service connected mental disorders including clinical depression and PTSD.