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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.

Executive Gun Order Clarifies Existing Law on Reporting Mental Illness

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

, 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

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Michael Petruzzelli

, 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

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Michael Petruzzelli

, National Council for Behavioral Health

Community Oriented Correctional Health Services (COCHS) and the National Council for Mental Wellbeing 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
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Michael Petruzzelli

, 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
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Michael Petruzzelli

, 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
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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
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Michael Petruzzelli

, 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
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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
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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
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Michael Petruzzelli

, National Council for Behavioral Health

This week, the National Council for Mental Wellbeing 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
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Michael Petruzzelli

, 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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Supreme Court Ruling Prohibits Medicaid Providers from Suing States for Higher Pay

April 2, 2015 | Justice | Medicaid | Comments
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Michael Petruzzelli

, National Council for Behavioral Health

The Supreme Court of the United States handed down a decision on Tuesday that prohibits private health care providers from suing state Medicaid agencies for higher reimbursement rates. Instead, the Court ruled that such disputes over payment should be resolved by the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) – dashing that litigation could yield pay increases for struggling providers.

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Senate Unanimously Confirms Michael Botticelli as Director of ONDCP

February 12, 2015 | Justice | Comments
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Michael Petruzzelli

, National Council for Behavioral Health

This week the Senate unanimously confirmed Michael Botticelli as the next Director of the Office of the National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) in a 92-0 vote. Botticelli, who had been Acting Director of ONDCP, brings more than two decades of experience and leadership supporting people struggling with substance abuse problems, their families and their communities.

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New National Initiative Announced: Mental Health Disorders in Jails

December 4, 2014 | Justice | Comments
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Alanna Tievsky

Policy Associate

The National Council has joined a new national initiative led by the National Association of Counties (NACo) and the Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center to advance counties’ efforts to reduce the number of adults with mental and co-occurring substance use disorders in jails. On December 9th, 2014, U.S. Senators John Cornyn (TX-R) and Al Franken (MN-D), in conjunction with NACo and CSG, will host a congressional briefing to underscore the bipartisan commitment to prioritize this issue for the 114th Congress and highlight the new wave of national efforts aimed at reducing the overwhelming number of people with mental health disorders cycling through U.S. jails.

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Senate Committee Approves Second Chance Reauthorization Act

September 24, 2014 | Justice | Comments
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Michael Petruzzelli

, National Council for Behavioral Health

The Second Chance Reauthorization Act (S.1690) achieved a milestone last week when it was voted out of Senate Judiciary Committee by a bipartisan, 13 to 5 vote. This legislation extends important federal initiatives for prisoner reintegration, substance use treatment, and diversion efforts for an additional five years. Activities funded through the Second Chance Act include: demonstration grants, mentoring, substance abuse and family-based programming.

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Data Highlight Substance Use Link Among Arrestees

July 9, 2014 | Addictions | Justice | Comments
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Alanna Tievsky

Policy Associate

On June 12, the Office for National Drug Control policy (ONDCP) released the results of the 2013 Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring Report (ADAM II) with new data underscoring the link between crime and substance use. Patterned on an earlier ADAM project, the survey gathered information from five counties on drug use and related issues from booked adult male arrestees within 48 hours of their arrest.

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House Passes Bill Funding Second Chance Act

June 5, 2014 | Federal Budget | Justice | Comments
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Rebecca Farley

Director, Policy & Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

The House last week voted to approve the Commerce-Justice-Science 2015 federal spending bill, which funds Department of Justice programs such as the Second Chance Act. First established in 2008, the Second Chance Act was designed to help prisoners effectively reintegrate into the community. The Act established grants for government agencies and nonprofits to provide services that reduce recidivism by improving outcomes for people returning from prisons, jails, and juvenile facilities.

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Senate Subcommittee Holds Hearing on Law Enforcement Responses to Individuals in Crisis

May 1, 2014 | Justice | Comments
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Rebecca Farley

Director, Policy & Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

On Tuesday, the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Human Rights held a hearing to explore challenges and solutions in law enforcement officers’ responses to individuals with mental illness or disabilities who are in crisis.

The hearing, entitled “Law Enforcement Responses to Disabled Americans: Promising Approaches for Protecting Public Safety,” was hosted by Subcommittee Chair Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL).

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Justice-Involved Individuals: New Options for Health Coverage

May 1, 2014 | Justice | Medicaid | Comments
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Adam Swanson

Senior Policy Associate, National Council for Behavioral Health

A new report from Health Affairs details options for states to provide health insurance coverage for formerly incarcerated persons, affording behavioral health providers new opportunities to serve these newly eligible individuals. Health Affairs outlines how states can significantly increase the availability of services for these individuals and ultimately reduce recidivism rates. The report highlights the […]

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Attorney General Calls on States to Repeal Felon Voting Bans

February 11, 2014 | Justice | Comments
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Rebecca Farley

Director, Policy & Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder this week called on states to repeal laws that prohibit felons from voting, saying, “It is time to fundamentally reconsider laws that permanently disenfranchise people who are no longer under federal or state supervision.”

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