COVID-19 Relief Signed Into Law


Congress passed the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 on Wednesday. This $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill includes billions in support for life-saving mental health and substance use services. President Biden signed the package into law yesterday. For a comprehensive breakdown of the mental health and substance use disorder-related provisions, click here. For more information on the entire piece of legislation, including support for vaccination rollout capabilities, funding for small businesses and schools, and relief for American families, click here. To access the full bill text, click here.

Telehealth Legislation Re-Introduced

This week, Sens. Portman (R-OH) and Whitehouse (D-RI), and Reps. McKinley (R-WV), Budd (R-NC), Cicilline (D-RI), and Trone (D-MD) re-introduced the Telehealth Response for E-prescribing Addiction Therapy Services (TREATS) Act. The legislation, first introduced last Congress, seeks to support the expansion of telehealth services for substance use care. The TREATS Act would allow for the prescription of medication-assisted treatment (MAT) without a prior in-person visit, and for Medicare to be billed for audio-only telehealth services. The National Council supports these efforts to expand access to needed substance use services.

Mental Health Caucus Letter on Medicare Part D Changes

The Mental Health Caucus and the HIV/AIDS Caucus recently sent a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) on proposed changes to the Medicare Part D six protected classes. In the letter, members of congress expressed their “strong opposition” to the requested changes that would allow plans to limit coverage of medications in five of the six protected classes.

MACPAC Considers Behavioral Health Supports

Earlier this month, the Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission (MACPAC) convened for its monthly meeting. One session focused on behavioral health services for adults, where Commissioners approved moving to the recommendation stage regarding better guidance for crisis services, improved coordination between SAMHSA and CMS, and more technical assistance that would strengthen service quality, accessibility, and coordination. Commissioners also agreed with providing guidance and technical assistance to bolster access to behavioral health care for children and adolescents. Read more.


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National Council Member Testifies for Congressional Committee. This week, Verna Foust, CEO, Red Rock Behavioral Health Services, testified before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies. Foust highlighted the importance of the Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic (CCBHC) model in expanding access to quality care, as well as the need for extended telehealth flexibilities beyond the public health emergency. She was joined by Lisa Amaya-Jacson, Co-Director, UCLA-Duke University National Center for Child Traumatic Stress, Arthur Evans Jr., CEO and Executive Vice President, American Psychological Association, and Mark Stringer, Director, Missouri Department of Mental Health.

Senate HELP Committee Considers Health Nominees. Next week, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) will vote on President Biden’s nominations of Dr. Vivek Murthy and Dr. Rachel Levine for surgeon general and assistant secretary of health, respectively.

Guest Author

Malka Berro
Policy Associate