National Council for Mental Wellbeing

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Joy Burwell
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Statement from Linda Rosenberg, National Council President & CEO on the Senate’s Opioid Package

Washington, D.C. (September 18, 2018) – Last night, the U.S. Senate passed a sweeping package of bills aimed at addressing the opioid crisis. None of the bills included provide the one thing communities hit by the opioid crisis need most: funding. Nor do they offer a comprehensive solution to the country’s addiction crisis.

In particular, the National Council for Mental Wellbeing is disappointed that Congress missed this opportunity to make a meaningful, long-term investment in our nation’s addiction treatment system by not including the Excellence in Mental Health and Addiction Treatment Expansion Act.  The bill would expand the current eight-state, two-year Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics (CCBHCs) program. CCBHCs have shown tremendous results in dramatically improving access to opioid addiction treatment and other addiction care. They provide access to the full continuum of evidence-based addiction treatments needed to appropriately address the opioid crisis.

In addition, the National Council has long supported lifting the Institutions for Mental Diseases (IMD) exclusion, which the Senate did not include in the package.

The National Council was pleased to see the following measures in the package:

  • The Special Registration for Telemedicine Clarification Act will remove barriers to accessing medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for opioid use disorders in rural and frontier areas and is a direct result of National Council advocacy efforts.
  • The Substance Use Disorder Workforce Loan Repayment Act  will create incentives for students to pursue addiction treatment professions, increasing timely access to treatment for individuals living with addiction. This legislation was introduced as a result of education and advocacy by the National Council and the Association for Behavioral Healthcare in Massachusetts.
  • Improving Access to Behavioral Health Information Technology Act incentivizes behavioral health providers to adopt electronic health records (EHRs). The National Council has been working for passage of this legislation since 2009, when behavioral health was left out of a law that created financial incentives for providers and hospitals to implement EHR systems to improve patient care.
  • Ensuring Access to Quality Sober Living Act requires the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to disseminate best practices for operating recovery housing to states and help them adopt those standards. The National Council has been a longtime supporter of imposing more robust standards. To this end, in partnership with the National Alliance for Recovery Residences, we recently issued Building Recovery: State Policy Guide for Supporting Recovery Housing  to assist states with the creation of recovery housing certification programs that standardize recovery housing operations to protect and support residents.
  • MAT prescribing expansions increase the number of patients that qualified practitioners can treat with buprenorphine at any one time. We are, however, disappointed the Senate version does not include of all the provisions of The Reforming and Expanding Access to Treatment Act.
  • Improving Access to Mental Health Services Act will allow behavioral health National Health Service Corps participants to work in schools and other community-based settings, thereby lowering barriers to access, particularly for rural and frontier communities.

To truly address the root causes of the opioid crisis, we need to invest in the full continuum of behavioral health services. We need a comprehensive solution. This package of bills does not achieve that. The National Council calls on the House and Senate to ensure the most impactful measures of the opioid packages are included in the final legislation.

We will continue to fight for the funding our members need to help more individuals and families receive the addiction and mental health care they deserve.


The National Council for Mental Wellbeing is the unifying voice of America’s health care organizations that deliver mental health and addictions treatment and services. Together with our 2,900 member organizations serving over 10 million adults, children and families living with mental illnesses and addictions, the National Council is committed to all Americans having access to comprehensive, high-quality care that affords every opportunity for recovery. The National Council introduced Mental Health First Aid USA and more than 1 million Americans have been trained.