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Archive: Justice

Capitol Connector
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.

Trump Announces More Action on Opioids at Summit

Shelley Starkey

Last Thursday, the White House held an Opioid Summit to discuss the Administration’s strategy for tackling the ongoing opioid crisis, which claimed more than 42,000 American lives and accounted for roughly two-thirds of drug overdose deaths in 2016. During his remarks, President Trump said, “The Administration is going to be rolling out policy over the next three weeks, and it will be very, very strong.” There was limited discussion of specific proposals, but it is expected the White House may bolster law enforcement agencies to carry out opioid-related activities.

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Interdepartmental Serious Mental Illness Coordinating Committee Releases Report to Congress

Stephanie Pellitt

Policy and Advocacy Associate

On Thursday, the federal Interdepartmental Serious Mental Illness Coordinating Committee (ISMICC) released its first report to Congress detailing major barriers to treatment for individuals with serious mental illness (SMI). The ISMICC, created by the 21st Century Cures Act, recommended ways to improve government-wide coordination to address unmet needs of people with serious mental illness. Their recommendations highlighted expanding the Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic (CCBHC) program, improved payment rates for psychiatry, and more criminal justice system diversion and early identification and intervention services for children and young adults.

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Diverse Stakeholders Gather to Discuss Mental Health and Criminal Justice Reform

November 30, 2017 | BHECON | Justice | Comments

Katiri Zuluaga

Manager, State Initiatives

On November 9, 2017, the Association for Behavioral Healthcare and Massachusetts Association for Mental Health in partnership with the Behavioral Health + Economics Network (BHECON), hosted a forum to address the overwhelming number of individuals with mental health needs that encounter the criminal justice system in Massachusetts. The forum, entitled “The Intersection of Reform: Behavioral Health and the Criminal Justice System,” highlighted both national and local programs that are decreasing recidivism, or rearrests, and arrests for individuals with behavioral health disorders, increasing successful treatment outcomes, and saving money for counties and states.

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Senate Bill to Support Reentry Programs Reintroduced

June 22, 2017 | Justice | Comments

Stephanie Pellitt

Policy and Advocacy Associate

Last week, Representatives Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) and Danny K. Davis (D-IL) reintroduced bipartisan legislation to reauthorize the Second Chance Act, a law that supports state and local reentry programs to reduce relapse and provides people leaving prison with post-release supportive services, including mental health and addiction treatment.

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Mental Health First Aid Heads to Capitol Hill

Shelley Starkey

Behavioral Health Policy and Practice Intern

On Friday, March 24, the National Council for Behavioral Health hosted briefings on Capitol Hill to address the importance of Mental Health First Aid trainings for law enforcement officers who regularly respond to calls involving persons in mental health or addiction crises. The panel included three law enforcement officers from across the U.S. who discussed the impact that Mental Health First Aid has had on their communities and departments.

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Congress Sends 21st Century Cures to White House

December 8, 2016 | Addictions | Justice | Comments

Stephanie Pellitt

Policy and Advocacy Associate

On Wednesday, the Senate passed 21st Century Cures (H.R. 34), a bill designed to spur medical innovation and research. The bill also establishes $1 billion in grants to states to help combat the nation’s opioid abuse epidemic. Cures now heads to White House, where it is expected to be signed by President Obama early next week.

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New Mexico Behavioral Health Providers Cleared of Fraud Allegations

Jacquelyn Sommer

Last week in New Mexico, the state Attorney General, Hector Balderas, cleared the last two of 15 behavioral health providers of allegations of Medicaid fraud. The 13 other providers were cleared earlier this year. The move came after several years of investigation, in which Medicaid payments to the affected agencies were halted and many were forced to close their doors.

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Senate Committee Holds Mental Health, Criminal Justice Hearing

February 18, 2016 | Justice | Comments

Ashley Freeman

Behavioral Health Policy and Practice Intern

Last Wednesday, mental health advocates and state and local criminal justice officials testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee calling for improvements in the way the justice system addresses those living with mental illness. The hearing focused largely on Senator John Cornyn’s (R-TX) criminal justice and mental health reform bill – the Mental Health and Safe Communities Act (S. 2002) which aims to ensure that individuals with mental illness are receiving proper treatment as opposed to cycling through the criminal justice system. Although no vote has been scheduled, Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) made clear the Committee’s intentions to take up this bill in the future.

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What’s Coming Down the Hill? An Update on Congress in 2016

Michael Petruzzelli

Manager, Policy and Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

Over the last several months, Capitol Connector has written over 50 stories about mental health and substance use legislation in the 114th Congress. From bill introductions to committee hearings to votes, every major development has been shared with our readers. And in two weeks, when President Obama submits to Congress the final budget recommendations of his administration, mental health and addictions will again take center stage. So where do all of these bills stand? What should be expected from Congress in the run up to Election Day 2016?

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Executive Gun Order Clarifies Existing Law on Reporting Mental Illness

January 7, 2016 | Justice | Privacy & HIPAA | Comments

Michael Petruzzelli

Manager, Policy and Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

This week, the Obama administration announced a series of Executive Orders aimed at reducing gun violence. Among its many provisions, the rule clarifies existing federal law on the required reporting of mental health information to the federal government background-checks system for gun purchases. As under current law, the new regulation does not require physicians directly involved in patient care to engage in the reporting process, but instead gives state agencies improved flexibility to report pertinent information.

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Senate Approves Bipartisan Criminal Justice, Mental Health Bill

Michael Petruzzelli

Manager, Policy and Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

On Friday, the Senate quietly approved bipartisan criminal justice and mental health related legislation. The Comprehensive Justice and Mental Health Act (S. 993/H.R.1854) – introduced by Senator Al Franken (D-MN) and Representative Doug Collins (R-GA) – primarily reauthorizes and improves the Mentally Ill Offender Treatment and Crime Reduction Act (MIOTCRA) of 2004. The bill aims to make communities safer across the country by improving access to mental health services for people in the criminal justice system who need treatment.

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COCHS, National Council Host Excellence Act, Criminal Justice Summit

Michael Petruzzelli

Manager, Policy and Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

Community Oriented Correctional Health Services (COCHS) and the National Council for Behavioral Health hosted a summit this week examining the potential of the Excellence in Mental Health Act to fundamentally transform mass incarceration in the US criminal justice system. The summit focused on the potential of the Excellence Act and Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics (CCBHCs) to reduce health care silos, ensure continuity of care and avoid unnecessary incarcerations for the behavioral health needs of justice involved individuals.

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New Legislation in the House would Eliminate Mandatory Minimums

September 24, 2015 | Justice | Comments

Michael Petruzzelli

Manager, Policy and Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

A new bill introduced in the House of Representatives would eliminate all mandatory minimum prison sentences for individuals convicted of violating drug laws. The Mandatory Minimum Reform Act (H.R. 3530), introduced by the Ranking Member of the House Committee on Financial Services, Representative Maxine Waters (D-CA), has 9 original cosponsors. The introduction of this measure is the latest in a growing number of criminal justice reform efforts this Congress.

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Hundreds March on Washington in First Ever Destination Dignity March

August 27, 2015 | Addictions | Justice | Parity | Take Action | Comments

Michael Petruzzelli

Manager, Policy and Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

On Monday, hundreds gathered on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. calling for dignity, rights and support for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness and addictions. The inaugural Destination Dignity March focused on raising public awareness of these illnesses and the systematic discrimination individuals living with these disorders face in the public health and criminal justice systems. The march was organization by a coalition of mental health and addiction advocacy organizations, including the National Council.

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New Legislation Aims to Strengthen Mental Health System, Improve Public Safety

August 6, 2015 | Justice | Comments

Jenni Muns

Policy Associate, National Council for Behavioral Health

This week, Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) introduced the Mental Health and Safe Communities Act (S.2002), which aims to bolster the nation’s mental health system and increase public safety. The bill includes targeted reforms to the mental health system, tactics to improve judicial responses to meet the needs of individuals with mental illness, and funding and resources for programs for justice-involved individuals with mental health conditions.

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Comprehensive Criminal Justice, Substance Use Bill Introduced in the House

July 9, 2015 | Addictions | Justice | Comments

Michael Petruzzelli

Manager, Policy and Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

Members of the House have introduced comprehensive criminal justice reform legislation that includes provisions specifically relevant to mental health and substance use treatment services. The Safe, Accountable, Fair and Effective (SAFE) Justice Act (H.R. 2944) authorizes the use of medication-assisted treatment, supports problem-solving courts including drug courts and veterans treatment courts, and funds the implementation of performance-based residential reentry centers.

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House Legislation enables Prisoners to Promptly Regain Access to Critical Benefits Upon Release

June 25, 2015 | Justice | Comments

Jenni Muns

Policy Associate, National Council for Behavioral Health

Congressman Andre Carson (D-IL) this week reintroduced the Recidivism Reduction Act (H.R. 2806), a bill that would quickly restore Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), and Medicaid benefits to eligible prisoners after they are released from incarceration. The National Council supports this legislation, which Rep. Carson has introduced multiple times over previous sessions of Congress but has not yet been enacted into law.

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Sens. Leahy, Portman reintroduce bipartisan bill to support state and local reentry programs

June 11, 2015 | Justice | Comments

Jenni Muns

Policy Associate, National Council for Behavioral Health

Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Rob Portman (R-OH) have reintroduced their bipartisan legislation to reauthorize the Second Chance Act, a law that supports state and local reentry programs to reduce relapse and provide people leaving prison with post-release supportive services, including substance use and mental health treatment.

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The Council of State Governments Governments and NACo Launch Stepping up Initiative

May 7, 2015 | Justice | Comments

Michael Petruzzelli

Manager, Policy and Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

This week, the National Council for Behavioral Health joined leading criminal justice and behavioral health organizations in supporting the Stepping Up Initiative, an unprecedented national collaboration designed to generate action in communities across the country for a common goal: to reduce the number of people with mental illnesses in U.S. jails.

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Justice and Mental Health Legislation Introduced in the House, Senate

April 23, 2015 | Justice | Comments

Michael Petruzzelli

Manager, Policy and Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

Last week, bipartisan legislation to support collaborative programs between criminal justice and mental health agencies was introduced in the House and Senate. Similar legislation was introduced in 2013, but hit a snag after two Senators placed it on hold and the legislation never received a vote.

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