Speak Up at Hill Day 2019
If you don’t speak up, how can you be heard? Our voices are louder – and more powerful – together. But only if we use them. Use your voice this year with hundreds of your fellow advocates at Hill Day 2019 – September 17-18 in Washington, D.C.
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House Bill Aims to Address Veteran Suicides at VA Facilities
This month, three veterans completed suicide at Veterans Affairs (VA) facilities over the course of five days, bringing an alarming trend into the national consciousness. The rising rate of suicides and suicide attempts at VA facilities has prompted new legislation to be introduced in Congress. H.R. 2340, proposed by Army combat veteran Representative Max Rose (D-NY), would require the VA to track deaths and suicide attempts on VA property and provide that information to Congress, along with medical, financial and housing information for any individuals who die by suicide at the VA.
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National Council Continues Push for Behavioral Health Telehealth Solutions
The National Council has been a longtime advocate for changing federal regulations that restrict how behavioral health medications that are controlled substances can be prescribed via telemedicine. Recognizing the urgent need to expand access to medication-assisted treatment (MAT) and other behavioral health medications, the National Council worked closely with Members of Congress to secure a provision in the opioid legislative package (SUPPORT Act) that would address this problem. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) now has until October 1, 2019 to clarify when the agency can issue prescribers a special registration that would enable them to treat patients for the first time via telemedicine.
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National Council Comments on Proposed Recovery Housing Guidelines
Last week, the National Council provided official comments to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) on the agency’s proposed Recovery Housing Guidelines. The guidelines are the result of requirements included in the SUPPORT Act of 2018, a wide-ranging opioid package, for the federal government to identify and disseminate best practices for operating recovery housing. While the guidance is intended to help states increase the availability of quality recovery housing, the National Council raised numerous concerns that the guidance would instead reduce access to recovery housing and undermine existing recovery housing standards and certification programs.
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Legislation Would Improve Mental Health Services in Schools
The Mental Health Services for Students Act (S. 1122/H.R. 1109), introduced in the Senate earlier this week and in the House earlier this year, would increase access to evidence-based comprehensive mental health programs for the nation’s youth in local schools and communities. The bill would build on youth-focused programs that incorporate promising practices in education, social services, local primary health care, and trauma-informed behavioral health care to help communities take action to help youth and adolescents in need. The National Council applauds Senator Tina Smith (D-MN) and Representatives Grace Napolitano (D-CA) and John Katko (R-NY) for their leadership on this important issue.
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Lawmakers Reintroduce 42 CFR Part 2 Overhaul
Last week, a bipartisan group of lawmakers reintroduced a bill in both the House and the Senate that would amend federal laws related to the sharing of substance use disorder (SUD) treatment records. The bills (S. 1012/H.R. 2062) would change 42 CFR Part 2, the section of the federal code related to this issue, to align it with the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Identical bills have been introduced in previous sessions of Congress but have subsequently failed to pass due to opposition from privacy advocacy groups and a handful of legislators.
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Congress Extends CCBHC Demonstration in Oregon, Oklahoma
The Senate approved a bill by voice vote on Tuesday that extends the Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic (CCBHC) demonstration program in Oregon and Oklahoma, among other Medicaid programs. H.R. 1839, which passed the House last week, provides both states with an additional three months of participation in the CCBHC initiative, funding them both through June 30, 2019. Oregon and Oklahoma were set to conclude their two-year demonstration and lose their funding on March 31, but this extension will align them with the other six CCBHC demonstration states that began the program three months after OR and OK in 2017.
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Federal Judge Rules Against Association Health Plans
A final rule released last year that allowed for the proliferation of association health plans (AHPs) that do not comply with requirements in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was ruled illegal by a District Judge last week. AHPs allow small businesses and trade groups to band together to purchase health insurance plans that are exempt from many critical ACA consumer protections, such as the requirement to provide certain health benefits which include mental health and substance use disorder treatment, and to do so at parity with physical and surgical health benefits. The National Council applauds U.S. District Judge John D. Bates for reversing these harmful AHPs.
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