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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.

Presidential Candidates Offer Thoughts on Mental Health in America

August 29, 2019 | Uncategorized | Comments
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Katiri Zuluaga

Manager, State Initiatives

Mental Health for US, of which the National Council is a founding coalition member, released survey responses from top presidential candidates on how they would improve mental health and addiction care in America, if elected. Candidates polling at one percent or higher nationally were sent an 11-question survey covering topics including suicide prevention, criminal justice reform, access to care, and addiction. Responses were received from U.S. Senator Cory Booker, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, U.S. Senator Kamala Harris, U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar, U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, and U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren.

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House Passes Funding Extension for CCBHC Demonstration

June 20, 2019 | Uncategorized | Comments
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Wendolyn Ebbert

Intern, Policy & Practice Improvement

On Tuesday, the House voted to pass the “Empowering Beneficiaries, Ensuring Access, and Strengthening Accountability Act of 2019 (H.R. 3253),” which would extend funding for certain Medicaid programs. Under the provision, funding for the eight-state Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic (CCBHC) demonstration program would be extended for another two and a half years until December 21, 2021. There was overwhelming bipartisan support of H.R. 3253, passing with a vote of 371-46. The bill must now go to the Senate for a vote before the CCBHC demonstration program expires on June 30th, 2019.

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National Council Member Testifies in Support of Extending CCBHCs

June 6, 2019 | Uncategorized | Comments
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Wendolyn Ebbert

Intern, Policy & Practice Improvement

On Tuesday, Mary-Catherine Bohan of Rutgers University Behavioral Health Care (UBHC), a National Council member and Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic, testified before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health in support of the Excellence in Mental Health and Addiction Treatment Expansion Act (S. 824/ H.R. 1767). The legislation would extend the Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic (CCBHC) Medicaid demonstration program in its original eight states for two years and expand the program to 11 other states that applied but were not originally selected. The CCBHC program is set to expire on June 30th, 2019 if Congress does not act. 

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NatCon19 Showcases Behavioral Health Policy Landscape

March 28, 2019 | Uncategorized | Comments
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Katiri Zuluaga

Manager, State Initiatives

This past week, over 6,000 attendees gathered in Nashville, TN for NatCon19, behavioral health’s premier conference. From inspiring fireside chats and keynotes to line dancing, NatCon19 had it all and provided the latest insights into policy challenges, solutions and guidance for behavioral health advocates. The consensus among health care leaders, government officials and innovative experts is that Medicaid waivers, state plan amendments, parity, and telehealth policy will continue to dominate the 2019 policy landscape for mental health and addiction treatment. NatCon19 attendees can access all presentation slides here with their badge number.

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What to Watch in Health Care in 2019

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Stephanie Pellitt

, National Council for Behavioral Health

The 116th Congress began on Thursday amid a government funding lapse that has shut down roughly 25 percent of the federal government. Democrats are set to lead the House chamber for the first time since 2010, while Republicans remain in control in the Senate. While legislation may be move less quickly in the new divided Congress, lawmakers will still face a number of “must-pass” bills that include health care priorities. Additionally, the Trump Administration will continue to shape the health care landscape with Medicaid waivers and potential payment reforms. Here is a preview of what’s ahead in health policy in 2019.

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NatCon19: The Best in Behavioral Health

December 20, 2018 | Take Action | Uncategorized | Comments
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Stephanie Pellitt

, National Council for Behavioral Health

On March 25-27th, behavioral health’s premier conference, NatCon19, will kick off in Nashville, TN. NatCon19 is where the best in behavioral health gather to learn from industry experts, take in world-class entertainment, keep up on the most innovative products, and make new connections. Policy and advocacy are always a special focus at NatCon. This year, our NatCon19 Policy Track will help you gain understanding of the latest policy challenges and solutions and guidance on how you can influence policy to better support clinics and patients.

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National Council Survey Shows Providers’ Policy Priorities

December 13, 2018 | Uncategorized | Comments
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Stephanie Pellitt

, National Council for Behavioral Health

In a few short weeks, Members of the 116th Congress will begin work on Capitol Hill. A new Congress equals new opportunities to improve the lives of individuals and families impacted mental illness and substance use disorders. To help prepare for the new Congress, the National Council’s Policy and Advocacy team recently surveyed National Council members to gather input on federal policy priorities for 2019 and beyond. Read more a for a summary of the results

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House Panel Examines 21st Century Cures Mental Health Initiatives

July 26, 2018 | Uncategorized | Comments
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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
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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

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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

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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
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Michael Petruzzelli

, 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
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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
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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
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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
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Michael Petruzzelli

, 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
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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
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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
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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

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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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