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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.

House Panel Examines 21st Century Cures Mental Health Initiatives

July 26, 2018 | Uncategorized | Comments

Shelley Starkey

Implementation of the 21st Century Cures Act’s mental health provisions was the topic of a Congressional hearing last week. Lawmakers sought updates on the Administration’s progress in strengthening the behavioral health workforce and mental health parity enforcement. Dr. Elinore McCance-Katz, head of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), testified to her agency’s progress in addressing these initiatives as well as other pressing mental health and addiction issues.

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Trump Administration Proposes Consolidating Public Assistance Programs

June 28, 2018 | Uncategorized | Comments

Shelley Starkey

Last week, the White House released a proposal to make sweeping changes to the Executive Branch of the government, reorganizing agencies such as the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the National Institute of Health (NIH) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), among others. Among the more notable proposed changes is to consolidate certain public assistance programs under HHS and rebrand the agency as the Department of Health and Public Welfare. Congress’s approval will be needed to make most of the large-scale changes, which poses a significant challenge to the plan’s enactment.

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Federal Social Impact Partnership May Yield Social Savings

Samantha Sears

Behavioral Health Policy and Practice Intern

A little-known provision in the recent budget deal included new federal funding for social impact bonds (or pay-for-success contracts) that are meant to spur innovation and lower government spending. Social impact bonds are financing program contracts where privately funded initiatives receive government spending only if the program achieves its targeted outcomes. Social impact bonds are used in behavioral health care to improve clinical outcomes, yield savings and share risk in financing new approaches to treatment.

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Nominee for HHS Secretary Testifies Before Senate HELP Committee

Shelley Starkey

On Wednesday, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) held a hearing on the nomination of Alex Azar to serve as Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Azar expressed his priorities if confirmed as Secretary, which include tackling the opioid epidemic, and was met with mixed feelings from committee members. Azar will sit for another hearing in front of the Senate Finance Committee, which will vote on advancing his nomination for a final confirmation vote on the Senate floor.

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House Passes Tax Reform, Senate Version Adds Health Care Provision

November 16, 2017 | Uncategorized | Comments

Michael Petruzzelli

Manager, Policy and Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

This week, the House of Representatives approved its version of tax reform legislation by a vote of 227-205. This House proposal is vastly different than the version the Senate is currently working on. On Tuesday, the Senate inserted a provision to repeal the Affordable Care Act’s individual health insurance mandate as a part of its proposal. The provision would zero out the penalty individuals face for not purchasing insurance beginning in 2019.

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Bill Introduced to Expand Charitable Giving Deductions

October 19, 2017 | Uncategorized | Comments

Shelley Starkey

Project Assistant

Representative Mark Walker (R-NC), has introduced the Universal Charitable Giving Act of 2017 (H.R. 3988) in the House, which would allow taxpayers who do not itemize their tax returns to write off a portion of their charitable contributions. This could help provide incentives for individuals to increase their charitable giving. However, if passed, this provision would likely be a part of President Trump’s larger tax reform package – a package that has raised concerns from numerous charitable organizations. 

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Bipartisan Task Force Launched to Address Suicide Prevention

September 21, 2017 | Uncategorized | Comments

Shelley Starkey

Project Assistant

Representatives John Katko (R-NY) and Don Beyer (D-VA) announced last week the formation of a new bipartisan House Suicide Prevention Task Force, a new subset of the Congressional Mental Health Caucus. The task force will work to create bipartisan solutions to help curb and combat the high rate of suicide in America. The National Council thanks these leaders for their service and commitment to this important cause.

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Industry Experts: President Trump’s Tax Plan Could Hurt Nonprofits

May 4, 2017 | Uncategorized | Comments

Stephanie Pellitt

Policy and Advocacy Associate

Last week, the White House and the U.S. House released the broad outlines of an upcoming effort to dramatically overhaul the U.S. tax code, amounting to a massive tax cut for both individuals and corporations. Nonprofit industry experts warn that both proposals could result in a big hit to bottom line for nonprofit organizations by changing to the amount of money taxpayers can write off and increasing the standard deduction. A timeline on when either package may be considered in Congress remains unclear and most analysts predict the proposals are a starting point for negotiations, not a final package.

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Trump Taps Nominee for Asst. Secretary of Mental Health and Substance Use

April 27, 2017 | Uncategorized | Comments

Michael Petruzzelli

Manager, Policy and Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

President Trump announced this week his pick for the first-ever Assistant Secretary of the Mental Health and Substance Use. Dr. Elinore McCance-Katz, currently serving as the Chief Medical Officer for Rhode Island’s Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals, served two years under President Obama as the Chief Medical Officer at SAMHSA. Created as a part of the 21st Century Cures Act of 2016, this position must be confirmed by the Senate.

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Surgeon General Vivek Murthy Dismissed, Replaced by Deputy

April 27, 2017 | Addictions | Uncategorized | Comments

Stephanie Pellitt

Policy and Advocacy Associate

Last Friday, Vivek Murthy was asked by the Trump Administration to resign as U.S. Surgeon General. His deputy, Sylvia Trent-Adams, will act as a temporary replacement. Serving as Surgeon General since 2014, Dr. Murthy made great advancements in promoting addiction as a public health issue, and produced the office’s first comprehensive report on addiction in America.

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Congressional Briefing Highlights Value of Recovery Housing

March 23, 2017 | Addictions | Uncategorized | Comments

Stephanie Pellitt

Policy and Advocacy Associate

On Thursday, the National Council partnered with Facing Addiction to host a Capitol Hill briefing on the effectiveness, challenges, and opportunities of recovery housing. The hearing featured testimony from Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act sponsors Sens. Portman (R-OH) and Whitehouse (D-RI), recovery housing operators, policy and legal experts, as well as personal stories from former recovery housing residents. The hearing focused on the integral role recovery housing plays in helping individuals achieve long-term recovery from drug and alcohol addiction and demonstrated the need for Congress to provide greater support for recovery housing.

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Medicaid is a Human Issue

March 16, 2017 | Uncategorized | Comments

Joy Burwell

Director of Communications, Policy and Practice Improvement

You have seen a lot of numbers detailing the impacts of the health care repeal bill, known as the American Health Care Act. It is easy to get caught up in the numbers, but it is important to remember those numbers represent people. People like Katie. Katie started taking pain pills in high school and soon found herself taking up to eight a day. Thanks to Medicaid she is getting treatment and working on her college degree in biology.

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Congressional Briefing Addresses Mental Health Disparities for Black Women

Shelley Starkey

Behavioral Health Policy and Practice Intern

The Congressional Caucus for Black Women and Girls hosted a briefing on Capitol Hill last Thursday, highlighting mental health issues affecting women of color. The briefing, titled “What Makes Black Girls Blue?” addressed the complex intersections of mental health, race, and gender and featured the perspectives of community treatment providers, public officials, and researchers. The panelists offered potential solutions for overcoming barriers to mental health care, including greater mental health awareness and more culturally competent care.

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Greg Walden to Lead Key Health Committee

December 8, 2016 | Uncategorized | Comments

Michael Petruzzelli

Manager, Policy and Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

Last week, House Republican leaders elected Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR) of Oregon’s 2nd District to run the influential House Energy and Commerce (E&C) Committee. Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) will continue to serve as Ranking Member. The House E&C Committee is the key health committee in the House of Representatives and should take center stage in efforts to repeal and replace tenets of the Affordable Care Act.

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Congress Considers Lame Duck Action on Mental Health

November 23, 2016 | Uncategorized | Comments

Stephanie Pellitt

Policy and Advocacy Associate

Rumors inside the Beltway suggest that Congress could vote on a mental health and health research and innovation package after Thanksgiving. While details have yet to emerge, Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) – Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and author of the 21st Century Cures Act – told House Republicans at a meeting last week that negotiations on the legislative package are nearing completion.

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Advocacy in 2017: Bring a Friend and Let’s Go to Work

November 17, 2016 | Uncategorized | Comments

Michael Petruzzelli

Manager, Policy and Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

In any post-election autopsy or forecast for the future, there is inevitably a ranking of the most powerful people in the room. As the political world prepares itself for a new presidential administration and Congress, the National Council wanted to share its list of the most powerful person in politics in 2017: YOU!

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Resources on New Emergency Preparedness Rule Now Available

November 3, 2016 | Uncategorized | Comments

Stephanie Pellitt

Policy and Advocacy Associate

Last month, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a set of requirements to prevent breakdowns in patient care following natural disasters and other emergencies. These new requirements will directly impact a limited number of mental health providers, including those registered with Medicare as Community Mental Health Centers. This week, CMS released a number of resources for providers to review and utilize as they strive to meet compliance by the November, 2017 deadline.

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SAMHSA Hires Chief Medical Officer, Anita Everett, M.D.

August 18, 2016 | Uncategorized | Comments

Jacquelyn Sommer

Manager, Policy and Advocacy

Last week SAMHSA announced the hiring of its new Chief Medical Officer, Anita Everett, M.D. Dr. Everett brings a wealth of behavioral health expertise and experience from the psychiatric field to this new role within SAMHSA. Currently, she works for Johns Hopkins School of Medicine as the Division Director of Community and General Psychiatry, and focuses on researching the health behavior of individuals living with long-term mental illness.

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Senate Subcommittee Approves Health Spending Bill

Michael Petruzzelli

Manager, Policy and Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

On Tuesday, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services and Education approved funding for key health and education programs for the first time in seven years. This bill funds critical programs within the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and more. The FY2017 funding measure now awaits consideration from the full Senate Appropriations Committee.

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Mental Health Reform Could be Tied to Addictions Legislation

June 9, 2016 | Uncategorized | Comments

Jacquelyn Sommer

Manager, Policy and Advocacy

Last week, rumors circulated on Capitol Hill that a mental health reform bill might be added to the opioid legislation that is currently being worked on by a conference committee. The idea is being floated by several congressional aides who are suggesting the possibility of adding the Mental Health Reform Act (S.2680) sponsored by Chris Murphy (D- CT) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA) to the opioid legislation in conference.

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