National Council for Behavioral Health

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Shelley Starkey

Behavioral Health Information Technology Bill Passes Senate

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A bipartisan bill that would incentivize behavioral health providers to adopt electronic health records (EHRs) has passed the Senate, and is onto the House for consideration. The Improving Access to Behavioral Health Information Technology Act (S. 1732), a National Council Hill Day 2018 ask, would incentivize behavioral health providers to incorporate electronic health records (EHRs) into their practices. A companion bill is also moving forward in the House as part of a large package of legislation to address the opioid epidemic.

EHRs provide a digital record of a patient’s chart, and can be more easily shared among all clinicians involved in that patient’s care. Behavioral health providers have adopted EHRs more slowly than physical health providers as they have traditionally not had the resources needed to implement the technology. The Improving Access to Behavioral Health Information Technology Act would help to improve the coordination of care and behavioral health integration into physical health settings by tasking the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation with creating a demonstration project to incentivize the use of EHR systems in mental health and addiction treatment settings. Providers and settings that would be included in these incentives are: clinical psychologists and clinical social workers at psychiatric hospitals, community mental health centers, residential or outpatient mental health treatment facilities and addiction treatment facilities.

The National Council thanks Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Rob Portman (R-OH) for their work on this bill, and looks forward to working with Representatives Lynn Jenkins (R-KS) and Doris Matsui (D-CA) to see the companion bill through the House.