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Archive: February 2016

Capitol Connector
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.

Senate Committee Explores Solutions to U.S. Opioid Epidemic

Jacquelyn Sommer

Manager, Policy and Advocacy

On Tuesday, the influential Senate Finance Committee held a hearing to examine addiction to opioids, continuing a string of notable legislative action aimed at finding solutions to the opioid epidemic in America. The hearing was convened to connect opioid abuse to mental health reform and explore changes that could be made to federal policies regarding opioid abuse.

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House Kicks Off Budget Season, HHS Defends FY2017 Budget Request

Michael Petruzzelli

Manager, Policy and Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

Appropriations season is officially underway on Capitol Hill, with Obama Administration officials defending their FY2017 budget requests before Congress this week. On Wednesday, Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell participated in her third hearing this month, highlighting key health components of the President’s budget request before the House Energy and Commerce Committee. The Secretary’s comments focused on many important topics, including: expansion of the Excellence in Mental Health Act, evidence-based solutions to the nation’s opioid epidemic, and state Medicaid expansion and reform to ensure needed coverage of millions of Americans.

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Companion Excellence Act Expansion Bill Introduced in the House

Michael Petruzzelli

Manager, Policy and Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

On Friday, Representatives Leonard Lance (R-NJ) and Doris Matsui (D-CA) introduced a companion bill to Senators Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Debbie Stabenow’s (D-MI) Expand Excellence in Mental Health Act (S.2525/H.R.4567). The bill would expand the Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic demonstration program to include all 24 planning grant states. The National Council applauds the leadership and continued dedication of Representatives Lance and Matsui, as well as Senators Blunt and Stabenow, for their commitment to bettering the lives of those living with mental illness and addictions.

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Senate Committee Holds Mental Health, Criminal Justice Hearing

February 18, 2016 | Justice | Comments

Ashley Freeman

Behavioral Health Policy and Practice Intern

Last Wednesday, mental health advocates and state and local criminal justice officials testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee calling for improvements in the way the justice system addresses those living with mental illness. The hearing focused largely on Senator John Cornyn’s (R-TX) criminal justice and mental health reform bill – the Mental Health and Safe Communities Act (S. 2002) which aims to ensure that individuals with mental illness are receiving proper treatment as opposed to cycling through the criminal justice system. Although no vote has been scheduled, Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) made clear the Committee’s intentions to take up this bill in the future.

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Excellence in Mental Health Act Expansion Legislation Introduced

Rebecca Farley

Director, Policy & Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

On Wednesday, Senators Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) introduced the Expand Excellence in Mental Health Act (S. 2525) – legislation that would expand the Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics demonstration program to all 24 planning grant states. The National Council for Behavioral Health applauds the introduction of this critical bill and thanks Senators Blunt and Stabenow for their unwavering commitment to expanding Americans’ access to high-quality mental health and addiction treatment services.

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President Obama Releases 2017 Budget Request; Includes New Behavioral Health Funding

February 11, 2016 | Federal Budget | Comments

Rebecca Farley

Director, Policy & Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

President Obama on Tuesday released the final budget request of his administration, reflecting an expansive vision of his legacy upon leaving office. Amid growing attention to the twin issues of mental health and addiction, the budget request includes $500 million for a series of two-year mental health initiatives and $1.1 billion for new addiction treatment, prevention and recovery programs. Overall, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration request of $4.3 billion represents a $590 million increase from 2016.

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HHS, SAMHSA Propose Modernization of Substance Use Records Rule

February 11, 2016 | Addictions | Comments

Michael Petruzzelli

Manager, Policy and Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

On Friday, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) released proposed regulatory changes to the confidentiality of patients’ substance abuse disorder records, also known as 42 CFR Part 2. The proposed regulations aim to modernize and better facilitate health information sharing within new health care models while maintaining the privacy of patients being treated for substance use and abuse. The National Council is currently reviewing the 144-page proposed regulation and consulting legal experts to identify the potential implications of these suggested changes.

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House Democrats Introduce Mental Health Reform Bill

Michael Petruzzelli

Manager, Policy and Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

Democratic members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee introduced their own version of mental health reform legislation this week. The bill, which spans nearly 300 pages, touches on many parts of the US mental health system. The bill’s authors said in a statement that their legislation is not meant to compete with Rep. Tim Murphy’s Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act (H.R. 2646); instead they said it is intended to push the conversation forward toward compromise and passage.

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National Council Hosts Convening of State Medicaid Agencies to Address Opioid Epidemic

Michael Petruzzelli

Manager, Policy and Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

Earlier this week, the National Council for Behavioral Health hosted a convening of state Medicaid agencies, substance use agencies, and state associations for specialty behavioral health providers to explore the ways in which states can better work together to address the nation’s growing opioid epidemic. The convening was hosted in partnership with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Open Society Foundations and the Pew Charitable Trusts.

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New Telehealth Bill Receives Bipartisan, Bicameral Support in Congress

Michael Petruzzelli

Manager, Policy and Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

Legislation that will expand telehealth services in Medicare was introduced in both chambers of Congress this week. The bill – the Creating Opportunities Now for Necessary and Effective Care Technology (CONNECT) for Health Act – aims to improve care outcomes, make it easier for patients to connect with their providers, and help cut costs to patients and providers alike. The wide-reaching legislation would loosen historically restrictive Medicare policies around telehealth that have imposed great barriers to patients’ access to needed treatment.

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