Presidential Candidates Discuss Mental Health in New Hampshire
The National Council, NH Community Behavioral Health Association, and Mental Health for US held the Unite for Mental Health: New Hampshire Town Hall this past Monday in Manchester, NH. Four 2020 presidential candidates participated: U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), Former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, Former U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh (R-IL), and Former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld. Candidates provided their positions on mental health and addiction treatment access and answered audience questions. Read more.
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Join the Unite for Mental Health: New Hampshire Town Hall on 12/16
On Monday December 16th at 6:30pm ET the Unite for Mental Health: New Hampshire Town Hall will kick off at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, NH. Presidential candidates Governor Weld and Congressman Walsh will share their mental health plans with attendees and answer audience questions. 2X Olympian and Ironman triathlete Sarah True will share her mental health story and Judge Steve Leifman will screen a trailer from his upcoming documentary and discuss his successes. More tickets were just released, and you can watch via Facebook Live.
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FCC Announces Next Steps to Update National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
This week, the National Council hosted Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai, along with leaders from Congress, federal agencies and community groups, to discuss a proposal to establish “9-8-8” as the new national suicide prevention and mental health crisis hotline number. This announcement closely mirrors Congress’s work on the issue via the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act of 2019 (H.R. 4194/S. 2661), which would also designate “9-8-8” as the new suicide prevention hotline number, with a direct line to the Veterans’ Crisis Line.
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Congressional Forum Addresses Black Youth Suicide
The Congressional Black Caucus’s Emergency Taskforce on Black Youth Suicide recently hosted its fourth forum, “Hearing Their Stories: Students and How They Handle Their Mental Health.” Members of Congress heard from five students, as well as Susan Taylor, former editor-in-chief of Essence Magazine, and Dr. Cheryl Grills, Professor, Loyola Marymount University. The panelists provided recommendations for Congressional action to address mental health concerns among black youth.
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Sen. Cornyn Introduces Bill to Expand Resources for Mental Health Treatment
This week, Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) joined a group of his colleagues in the Senate to introduce the Restoring, Enhancing, Strengthening, and Promoting Our Nation’s Safety Efforts (RESPONSE) Act (S. 2690). Within this wide-ranging bill, there are provisions the National Council supports including increasing access to mental health treatment, such as promoting collaboration between the mental health and criminal justice systems and supporting school-based behavioral intervention teams. The National Council shares the Senators desire to increase access to mental health treatment and recovery.
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Advocates Rally in Iowa to Prioritize Mental Health in 2020 Election
Last month the National Council joined the Mental Health for US Coalition and local advocates in Des Moines, IA to present a joint platform on mental health priorities for the 2020 election cycle. The event is a kick-off to a multi-state and national campaign to educate policymakers and elevate the role of mental health policy solutions among all candidates for President of the United States. The next event, a Town Hall, will be taking place in Manchester, NH on December 16th, 2019.
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Senate Health Appropriations Language Released
With just over one week left until the Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 appropriations work is due to avoid a government shutdown, the Senate is still working to finalize its funding bills. Last week, the Senate Appropriations Committee put a pause on their Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education spending discussions over partisan disputes about what should and should not be included in the bill. Although the Committee has yet to discuss or vote on the bill, its draft text and report were publicly posted on Tuesday, a move that is out of the norm until after a full Committee markup.
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National Council Briefing Addresses Mass Violence in America
The National Council for Behavioral Health held a congressional staff briefing on Wednesday as a part of Hill Day 2019. This briefing covered an analysis of mass violence as a comprehensive response following the recent tragic events in Texas, Ohio, and California, among too many others. The four briefing panelists were all contributors to the National Council’s Medical Director Institute report, Mass Violence in America: Causes, Impacts and Solutions.
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House Passes Short-Term CCBHC Extension, Bill Now Heads to White House
On Tuesday, the House approved a short-term extension of the Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic (CCBHC) demonstration in Medicaid. The legislation now heads to the White House for President Trump’s review and signature. The bill would extend the program until Friday, September 13, 2019. This extension is yet another legislative victory for the CCBHC program and one on which we will look to build momentum for a long-term extension and expansion in the fall. The National Council thanks Congress and the countless advocates whose work has expanded access to high-quality, community-based treatment through the CCBHC program.
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Medicaid Myths: Debunking Common Misconceptions of the Medicaid Program
Last week, the Partnership for Medicaid, a nonpartisan advocacy coalition including the National Council, hosted a congressional staff briefing to discuss and unravel some of the most common misconceptions about the Medicaid program and its beneficiaries. The briefing focused specifically on individuals who receive health care via Medicaid and its impact on their lives. The diverse panel of speakers provided an overview of how millions of Americans benefit from the Medicaid program and how Medicaid expansion has led to increases in coverage, access to care and improved health outcomes for beneficiaries.
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House Panel Approves FY 20 Health Funding Levels
On Tuesday, the appropriations subcommittee that covers health care programs approved funding levels for federal health spending for Fiscal Year (FY) 2020. As expected, the bill largely ignores proposed cuts from President Trump’s budget and assumes that Congress will reach a deal to avoid upcoming budget caps. As currently written, the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies (Labor-HHS) appropriations bill would prioritize efforts to address the opioid crisis and increase medical research.
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House Bill Aims to Address Mental Health Workforce Shortage
A bill introduced in the House this week would establish a loan repayment program for mental health care providers who commit to working in designated communities with a lack of accessible care. The Mental Health Professionals Workforce Shortage Loan Repayment Act of 2019 (H.R. 2431), introduced by Representatives John Katko (R-NY) and Grace Napolitano (D-CA), seeks to address a critical shortage in the number of mental health care providers across the country.
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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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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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Mental Health Treatment Wrongly Denied by Insurance Giant
In a landmark ruling, a federal court held Tuesday that health insurance giant United Behavioral Health (UBH), which serves over 60 million members and is owned by UnitedHealth Group, used flawed internal guidelines to unlawfully deny beneficiaries access to mental health and substance use treatment in an effort to cut costs. The ruling marks a validation for patients and providers who have long raised concerns that health plans were not fulfilling the requirements set forth in the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008, which established parity between the coverage of behavioral health and medical/surgical benefits.
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National Council Comments on Suicide Hotline Implementation
Earlier this week, the National Council for Behavioral Health submitted official comments to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) urging the agency to designate a 3-digit phone code as a Behavioral Health and Suicide Crisis Lifeline. The National Council’s comments aim to address a public notice issued by the FCC soliciting public opinion on the implementation of the National Suicide Hotline Improvement Act. The Act, which was signed into law in August, tasks the FCC along with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) with studying and reporting on the feasibility of replacing the current behavioral health crisis hotline, 1-800-273-TALK, with a memorable three-digit code such as 411 or 611.
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CMS Announces New Opportunities to Expand Mental Health Services
This week the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced a new opportunity for states to expand Medicaid coverage for mental health services, including treatment delivered in inpatient facilities with more than 16 beds known as institutions for mental disease (IMDs). In a letter, CMS explains how states can use Section 1115 waivers to “support innovative service delivery systems” for adults with serious mental illness (SMI) and children with serious emotional disturbance (SED). CMS emphasized the need for states to bolster early identification services, better integrate mental health and primary care, increase access to crisis services and expand the use of Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics (CCBHCs).
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BHECON’s 2018 Themes Show Key Issues Faced by State Behavioral Health Associations
The Behavioral Health + Economics Network (BHECON), an initiative led by the National Council, is winding down on its second year of activities. BHECON partners with National Council state provider associations to transform the behavioral health delivery system by increasing their advocacy capacity and breaking down silos that create barriers to services for individuals with serious mental illness and co-occurring conditions. In its second year, BHECON translated the key state issues identified by stakeholders in year one, including mental health parity, workforce and increasing access to behavioral health services, into specific policy solutions in each of the nine states currently participating in the program.
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Health Care Emerges as Top Issue in Midterms
With historic levels of voter turnout, Tuesday’s midterm election results saw Democrats regain control of the House of Representatives, while Republicans strengthened their majority in the Senate. Health care emerged as a clear priority for voters and Medicaid expansion proved to be a big winner on election night. With power now divided in Congress, the next two years could feature intense political gridlock or force bipartisan compromise. Right now, one thing is clear – the 2018 midterms will send one of the largest classes of freshmen Members to Washington in recent history – and with them come new advocacy opportunities for the National Council and its members.
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SAMHSA Releases National Survey on Drug Use and Health
Last week, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) released the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), providing the nation with a snapshot of the ongoing opioid epidemic and mental health update across the country. The report found that 1 in 12 American adults (18.7 million) had a substance use disorder (SUD) and that 1 in 5 (46.6 million) had a mental illness. More than 8.5 million, though, were found to have both a SUD and mental illness.
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