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 Mental Wellbeing 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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