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Stephanie Pellitt

Policy and Advocacy Associate

CMS Releases Federal Disaster Preparedness Requirements

September 15, 2016 | Medicaid | Medicare | Comments
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The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a final rule this week to prevent breakdowns in patient care following natural disasters and other emergencies. These new requirements will directly impact certain mental health providers, including organizations registered with Medicare as Community Mental Health Centers (CMHCs), as well as organizations that may offer mental health services like Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs), Rural Health Centers, and Intermediate Care Facilities (ICFs). The rule requires detailed and coordinated emergency plans for federal, state, and local emergency systems.  Affected providers have until November 15, 2017 to implement the new requirements.


Although the term “community mental health center” is widely used, the newly released rule applies only to organizations that fall under the very narrow definition of a CMHC used in Medicare for providers of partial hospitalization services. Nationwide, only 198 organizations are registered with Medicare as CMHCs; most community-based mental health and addiction providers fall under the broader category of outpatient clinic—a category not affected by this final rule. Not sure whether your clinic is a Medicare CMHC? Click here to view our FAQs on this topic.

Other providers that must comply with the terms of the emergency preparedness rule include:

  1. Religious Nonmedical Health Care Institutions (RNHCIs)
  2. Ambulatory Surgical Centers (ASCs)
  3. Hospices
  4. Psychiatric Residential Treatment Facilities
  5. All Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE)
  6. Hospitals
  7. Transplant Centers
  8. Long Term Care (LTC) Facilities
  9. Intermediate Care Facilities for Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities (ICF/IID)
  10. Home Health Agencies (HHAs)
  11. Comprehensive Outpatient Rehabilitation Facilities (CORFs)
  12. Critical Access Hospitals (CAHs)
  13. Outpatient Physical Therapy and Speech Language Pathology Services (Organizations)
  14. Community Mental Health Centers
  15. Organ Procurement Organizations (OPOs)
  16. Rural Health Clinics (RHCs) and Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs)
  17. End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) Facilities


Under the terms of the newly released rule, CMS will require providers to develop and implement the following:

  1. A risk assessment plan that identifies a multitude of threat scenarios and has the capacity to address a broad range of related emergencies;
  2. A site-specific emergency plan based upon this risk assessment and focused on capacities and capabilities that are critical to preparedness for a full spectrum of emergencies;
  3. A communication plan explaining how to contact appropriate staff, professionals and caregivers in a timely manner to ensure continuation of patient care; and
  4. Policies and procedures that support the successful execution of the emergency plan and risks identified during the risk assessment process.


In addition to the documentation described above, affected providers will be required to have an emergency preparedness training and testing program. This training must be delivered annually to all new and existing staff, volunteers and any individuals providing services under arrangement. Additionally, providers must conduct two exercises per year to test the emergency response plan, identifying gaps and areas for improvement in the emergency plan.

The final rule includes a number of helpful local and national resources related to emergency preparedness, including reports, toolkits and samples. Read the final rule in its entirety here.