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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.

HHS Releases Updated Health IT Strategic Plan

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Michael Petruzzelli

, National Council for Mental Wellbeing

This week, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released an updated draft of their Federal Health IT Strategic Plan 2015-2020. The “Draft Plan,” prepared by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, builds upon the administration’s previous Strategic Plan from 2011 and supports the continued advancement of widespread health IT adoption.

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Behavioral Health IT Coalition Hosts Congressional Briefing on Interoperability

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Michael Petruzzelli

, National Council for Mental Wellbeing

On December 3, the Behavioral Health IT (BHIT) Coalition held a briefing for congressional staff to discuss how mental health and addiction treatment communities are addressing health information exchange and electronic health record (EHR) interoperability. This was the fourth briefing held by the coalition urging congressional action to include behavioral health providers in the EHR financial incentive program, called Meaningful Use.

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Behavioral Health IT Coalition Launches Website

November 18, 2014 | Health Information Technology | Comments
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Michael Petruzzelli

, National Council for Mental Wellbeing

This week, the Behavioral Health Information Technology (BHIT) Coalition launched a website highlighting important legislation to include mental health and addiction providers in electronic health records (EHR) incentive programs. The BHIT Coalition, of which the National Council is a founding member, provides analysis on a number of bills that would include behavioral health providers as a part of the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act, providing financial incentives for the adoption of EHRs.

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CMS Again Delays Deadlines for EHR Incentive Program

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Michael Petruzzelli

, National Council for Mental Wellbeing

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has yet again postponed deadlines for the electronic health records (EHR) incentive program. The EHR Incentive Program, also called Meaningful Use, is administered by Medicare and Medicaid and is broken into three stages to incentivize the adoption and utilization of health information technology. To complete each stage, participating providers must prove to CMS that they are completing a set number of requirements and demonstrate a meaningful use of the health information technology. Now in its fifth year, providers participating in the EHR incentive program are working to complete Stage One and Stage Two of the three stage process.

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DC Hosts 9th Annual National Health IT Week

September 17, 2014 | Health Information Technology | Comments
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Michael Petruzzelli

, National Council for Mental Wellbeing

This week in Washington, DC the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) hosts the 9th Annual National Health IT (NHIT) Week . With more than 400 partners, including the National Council, NHIT Week is a collaborative forum and virtual awareness week, bringing health IT to the forefront of the legislative agenda. As a partner, the National Council identifies this as an important week to discuss the role and future of health IT and behavioral health providers, specifically the Behavioral Health IT Act.

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Vinfen Recognized for Innovative Use of Technology as Workforce Extender

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Susan Partain

Senior Writer, National Council for Mental Wellbeing

Facing significant gaps in care for individuals living with serious mental illness, providers and payers around the country are turning to innovative technologies to address these patients’ physical and mental health needs. Vinfen – a National Council member organization serving areas of Massachusetts and Connecticut – was recently recognized by Connect 4 Mental Health for its creative use of technology through use of a small clock-radio-size device called Health Buddy that helps patients self-manage their health.

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Health Equity and Accountability Act Introduced

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Rebecca Farley

Director, Policy & Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

“Mental and behavioral health social workers” would be eligible for federal loan repayment benefits under new legislation introduced by Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA) with 70 cosponsors. The Health Equity and Accountability Act of 2014 (H.R.5294) adds these professionals to existing loan repayment programs, a move designed to bolster the behavioral health workforce. It also requires the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities and the Institute of Medicine to conduct a study on “mental and behavioral health disparities in racial and ethnic minority groups” and issue recommendations for improvement to Congress.

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Negotiations Underway to Reconcile Rival Behavioral Health Bills

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Rebecca Farley

Director, Policy & Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

The lead sponsors of rival behavioral health reform bills are meeting to negotiate a deal that may have a chance of moving forward in Congress this year. Congressmen Tim Murphy (R-PA) and Ron Barber (D-AZ) led a bipartisan group of legislators in meeting last Tuesday to identify where the two bills have common ground and […]

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CMS Proposes 1-Year Reprieve on 2014 EHR Certification; Issues Attestation Guidance

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Rebecca Farley

Director, Policy & Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

This week, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) released a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) that would allow providers participating in the EHR Incentive Programs to use the 2011 Edition of certified electronic health record technology (CEHRT) for calendar and fiscal year 2014.

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Congressional Cosponsors Join Behavioral Health Bills After Hill Day

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Rebecca Farley

Director, Policy & Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

Several members of Congress have added themselves as cosponsors to the Mental Health First Aid Act and Behavioral Health IT Act in the wake of the National Council’s 10th annual Hill Day, held May 7 in Washington, D.C.

Hill Day brought more than 1,200 mental health and substance use advocates to DC for three days of public policy workshops and trainings, followed by visits with their legislators to advocate for our field’s priorities.

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Several House Committee Members Introduce Broad Behavioral Health Bill

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Rebecca Farley

Director, Policy & Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

Earlier this week, members of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce – which oversees many policies related to mental health and substance use – introduced legislation to improve the U.S. behavioral healthcare system.

The Strengthening Mental Health in Our Communities Act (H.R. 4574) was introduced by Ron Barber (D-AZ), Diana DeGette (D-CO), Doris Matsui (D-CA), Grace Napolitano (D-CA), and Paul Tonko (D-NY).

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CMS Clarifies Expanded Hardship Exemption for Medicare Electronic Health Record Use

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Rebecca Farley

Director, Policy & Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has released new details explaining a recently announced expansion of the hardship exemption for healthcare providers who are unable to meet electronic health record Meaningful Use requirements this year.

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Year in Review: Progress for Behavioral Health on the Hill

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Chuck Ingoglia

President & CEO, National Council for Mental Wellbeing

The beginning of a new year is always a time for reflection on our achievements over the last twelve months and setting goals for what we hope to accomplish in the coming twelve. 2014 is an especially exciting time to do this because of how far we’ve come with our legislative priorities, thanks to unprecedented support in Congress and the outstanding support from advocates like you.

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Congressman Tim Murphy Introduces Mental Health Reform Bill

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Rebecca Farley

Director, Policy & Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

Today, Congressman Tim Murphy (R-PA) introduced a bill to reform the nation’s mental health delivery system. The legislation is the culmination of a year-long series of hearings Murphy held as chair of the House Energy and Commerce Oversight and Investigations Committee in the wake of the tragic 2012 Newtown shooting.

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Stage 3 Meaningful Use Deadline Delayed by One Year

December 10, 2013 | Health Information Technology | Comments
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Rebecca Farley

Director, Policy & Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has announced a one-year delay in the implementation of Stage 3 Meaningful Use criteria. Established under the HITECH Act of 2009, each stage of Meaningful Use outlines the metrics organizations must meet to receive incentive payments for their use of electronic health records. Participating organizations will have an additional year to comply with Stage 2 criteria while CMS crafts its proposed rules for Stage 3.

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Behavioral Health IT Coordination Act Introduced

November 14, 2013 | Health Information Technology | Comments
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Rebecca Farley

Director, Policy & Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

Efforts to extend health IT payments to mental health and addiction providers advanced this week with the introduction of the Behavioral Health IT Coordination Act (S. 1685), which would add psychiatric hospitals, mental health treatment facilities, and substance abuse treatment facilities to the types of entities that may receive incentive payments for meaningful use of electronic health records.

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Health IT Payments Available to Providers Working in Jails and Prisons

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Rebecca Farley

Director, Policy & Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

Healthcare professionals working in correctional institutions are now eligible to receive federal health IT incentive payments for their use of electronic health records, according to guidance issued by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Under the new policy, providers are eligible to receive the payments when 30 percent of their patient encounters are with patients enrolled in Medicaid – even if patients’ enrollment has been suspended due to their incarceration.

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MITECH Bill Extends Health IT Incentive Payments to Safety Net Clinics

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Rebecca Farley

Director, Policy & Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

Legislation introduced this month in the House and Senate would make federal incentive payments for the use of health IT widely available to a variety of healthcare safety net providers, including community behavioral health centers.

The legislation is known as MITECH, the Medicaid Information Technology to Enhance Community Health (MITECH) Act (S. 1286/H.R. 2676).

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