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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HHS Proposes Updates to Fraud and Abuse Laws
Earlier this month, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released a pair of proposed rules aimed at modernizing and clarifying the Stark Law and the Anti-Kickback Statute (AKS), two health care fraud and abuse laws. These new proposed rules aim to ease provider compliance burden and improve certainty for providers in value-based arrangements and for those who provide coordinated care. The rules also provide protections for providers transferring electronic health records and coordinating local transportation.
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Executive Order Seeks to Limit Agency Guidance
Last week, President Trump signed an executive order designed to limit the effect of federal agency guidance. Historically, agencies have issued guidance to the public on how to best comply with a law or regulation, and, for many agencies, guidance documents have taken the place of policymaking. Issuing guidance can often be a much faster process than the possible years of waiting for federal regulation to be approved. The executive order makes all current and future guidance documents nonbinding, “both in law and in practice.”
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Legal Challenges Halt Implementation of DHS Public Charge Rule
Federal judges in New York, California, and Washington state have issued temporary injunctions against the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) public charge rule. The rule, which was set to take effect on October 15 but is now on hold, would greatly expand the definition of “public charge” when considering some immigrants’ applications to enter or become permanent residents of the United States. The National Council has long opposed the proposed updates to public charge determinations as they would result in significant harm to the health and welfare of migrant families.
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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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Executive Order Aims to Modernize Medicare
Last week, President Trump issued an Executive Order directing the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to advance a series of changes for the Medicare program. These changes aim to provide more health plan options for Medicare beneficiaries, modify Medicare fee-for-service (FFS) payments, and reduce regulatory burden, among others.
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White House Bars Uninsured Immigrants from Entry to US
President Trump last week released a proclamation suspending entry for some immigrants who cannot prove that they will have health coverage or the means to pay for it without assistance within 30 days of their arrival. Under the proclamation, immigrants who “will financially burden the U.S. healthcare system” by remaining uninsured or relying on public health programs such as Medicaid or government-subsidized coverage will be denied a visa. The National Council remains strongly opposed to policies such as this that prevent individuals from receiving health care and assistance to which they are legally entitled.
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Continuing Resolution Passes Out of Senate, Onto President for Signature
Both chambers of Congress have agreed to a stopgap funding bill that will keep the federal government open through November 21, giving appropriators more time to finalize Fiscal Year 2020 (FY20) funding levels. The continuing resolution (CR) includes a short-term extension for the Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic (CCBHC) Medicaid demonstration and level funding for the majority of ongoing federal programs. The bill now heads to President Trump’s desk for his signature.
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National Council Hosts Largest Hill Day Yet
This week, the National Council partnered with 26 national advocacy organizations to host Hill Day 2019. Over 715 advocates from across the country held hundreds of meetings with their Members of Congress, making this the largest National Council Hill Day yet. The National Council thanks our partner organizations and all of our advocates for their tremendous work to highlight the importance of supporting and funding mental health and substance use treatment services.
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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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SAMHSA Proposes Changes to Part 2 SUD Privacy Rules
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has released a proposed rule that would change the way substance use disorder (SUD) treatment records are shared under 42 CFR Part 2. Although the Trump administration does not have the authority to fully align 42 CFR Part 2 with the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), the administration stated that its proposal aims to “facilitate better coordination of care for substance use disorders, which will also enhance care for opioid use disorder,” according to an official fact sheet on the proposal. Meanwhile, critics expressed concern that the changes to the rule would undermine patient confidentiality and willingness to seek treatment. SAMHSA is accepting public comments on these proposed changes until October 24, 2019.
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Presidential Candidates Offer Thoughts on Mental Health in America
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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National Council Announces 2019 Legislative Award Winners
The National Council for Behavioral Health is pleased to announce this year’s legislative honorees for Hill Day 2019. Each legislator is being recognized for his or her hard work and dedicated commitment to the mental health and addiction community. The National Council will honor each legislator this year at National Council Hill Day on September 17-18 in Washington, D.C.
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DHS Publishes Harmful Public Charge Final Rule
The Trump administration on Wednesday officially published a final rule from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that greatly expands the definition of “public charge” when considering immigrants’ applications to enter or become permanent residents of the United States. This rule has already had a chilling effect on lawfully present immigrants utilizing public assistance programs for which they are eligible, including Medicaid, for fear of being denied the chance to stay in the United States. The National Council stands strongly opposed to this rule, which will result in significant harm to the health and welfare of immigrant families.
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New Bill Expands Access to Telehealth for Mental Illness, Substance Use Disorder
New legislation introduced in Congress this week would expand access to telemedicine for mental health and substance use disorder treatment. The Improving Access to Remote Behavioral Health Treatment Act of 2019 (S. 2244/H.R. 4131) would amend regulations for the Ryan Haight Online Pharmacy Consumer Protection Act of 2008 and specifically name community mental health centers and addiction treatment centers as eligible sites to prescribe controlled substances via telemedicine.
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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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National Council Supports the Mainstreaming Addiction Treatment Act
The National Council for Behavioral Health Board of Directors has determined to support the bipartisan Mainstreaming Addiction Treatment (MAT) Act (H.R. 2482), which would expand access to medication-assisted treatment, the “gold standard” of addiction treatment when prescribed in conjunction with regular counseling. The National Council thanks the bill authors Reps. Paul Tonko (D-NY), Antonio Delgado (D-NY), Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), Ted Budd (R-NC), Elise Stefanik (R-NY) and Mike Turner (R-OH) for their work on this critical issue.
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Court Rules in Favor of Limited Coverage Plans
Late last month, a federal judge upheld a Trump Administration regulation to allow the sale of bare-bones, short-term health plans that are exempt from critical health coverage provisions in the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The 2018 regulation, which went into effect in August that year, promotes the sale and allows for an extended duration of these short-term plans. These plans will continue to be sold in direct competition with ACA-compliant marketplace plans.
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Deal Reached on Budget Caps and Debt Ceiling, On to Senate for Approval
Congressional leaders and White House officials reached a sweeping deal on Monday that would address pressing deadlines for the federal debt ceiling and budgetary spending caps. The Bipartisan Budget Act (H.R. 3877) represents the largest-ever increase in base funding above sequestration levels for both defense and nondefense spending. The deal also effectively ends the threat of sequestration – a mandatory automatic spending cuts put in place in 2011. The House passed the bill on Thursday, and the Senate is expected to hold its vote next week.
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