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Michael Petruzzelli

, National Council for Mental Wellbeing

House Committee to Consider, Vote on Mental Health Reform Bill

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On Wednesday, June 15, the House Energy and Commerce Committee will convene a hearing to consider and vote on a revised version of the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act (H.R. 2646), originally introduced by Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA).  The draft bill reflects a few changes pushed by Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI), including codifying a limit on Medicaid coverage for inpatient mental health care at institutions for mental diseases (IMDs) – Per the final Medicaid managed care rule – and dropping language that would loosen Health Information Portability Accountability Act (HIPPA) restrictions.

Other notable changes to the bill include:

  • Grant Programs – The draft bill reauthorizes some grant programs – including the Garrett Lee Smith program and a program dedicated to early intervention and prevention of youth suicide – but does not provide any new funding streams for those initiatives.
  • AOT – The released draft drops a provision that would provide states with existing assisted outpatient treatment (AOT) laws a 2 percent increase in block grant funding, but extends an assisted outpatient grant program for individuals with a serious mental illness (SMI) through 2020.
  • Parity – The draft legislation draws back language that would have required the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to report on federal investigations into compliance with the law. It also requires the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to complete a study detailing federal oversight of group health plans – including Medicaid managed care plans – to ensure those plans are not using discriminatory coverage limitations for persons with mental health and substance use conditions.
  • Excellence Act – Language incorporating the Excellence in Mental Health Act, which would set up a certification process for community behavioral health centers, was not included in the draft text.
  • Assistant Secretary for Mental Health – The new draft includes the creation of an Assistant Secretary for Mental Health within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), but filling the post will no longer require Senate confirmation.
  • SAMHSA Strategic Plan – The draft bill requires the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to create a strategic plan in coordination with the National Institutes of Mental Health, the Assistant Secretary of Mental Health, and the HHS Secretary. The bill also calls for an independent evaluation of SAMHSA and whether the agency is meeting its indicated mission effectively.

We will be covering the eventual markup of mental health legislation in the Energy and Commerce Committee, and will be sure to keep you apprised of any developments.