National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare: Notes on the Affordable Care Act

Wednesday Jul 4, 2012 06:25 pm EDT

A Historic Week for Behavioral Health — You Made It Possible!As we celebrate the 236th anniversary of American independence tomorrow, behavioral health has added cause to rejoice as we look back upon a historic week.On June 28, the Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act. Last week, we also witnessed what National Council lobbyist Al Guida rightly describes as “an unprecedented superfecta for behavioral health in the United States Congress” —  as nearly 600 advocates gathered on Capitol Hill to raise their voices in support of persons with mental and addiction disorders at our 8th Annual Policy Institute and Hill Day.The “superfecta” played out in the form of four bills introduced in Congress in a single week, focused exclusively on improving care for the 1 in 5 Americans with behavioral health challenges:Excellence in Mental Health Act (H.R. 5989) — Companion to S. 2257, this legislation will establish national standards and oversight for Federally Qualified Community Behavioral Health Centers (FQCBHCs). These standards will bolster our nation’s community mental health and addictions system, providing new support for integrated and simplified treatment.Mental Health First Aid Higher Education Act (Two bills — H.R. 5996 / S. 3325) — This bill will authorize a demonstration program to train college faculty and staff in Mental Health First Aid, a community education program that helps people identify, understand, and respond to signs of mental illnesses and addictions and deal with psychiatric crises. More than 60,000 caring citizens across the U.S. have already been trained in Mental Health First Aid, a program that helps people take care of themselves and of each other.Behavioral Health Information Technology Act (H.R. 6043) — Much like its counterpart in the Senate (S.539), this bill will add community mental health centers, psychiatric hospitals, mental health treatment facilities, and substance abuse treatment facilities to the list of organizations eligible for federal incentive payments. Currently, you can receive incentive payments for the adoption of health information technology if you have a psychiatrist or nurse practitioner on staff. Both bills would extend incentive payments for electronic health records to certain types of behavioral health organizations that are not currently eligible.These successes are impossible without your help. Thank you to all those who came to Hill Day — your presence and your advocacy in support of these bills and other issues makes a difference. And we are thankful to our partners, Mental Health America and U.S. Psychiatric Rehabilitation Association, who amplified our voice on the Hill. We also appreciate the support of our speakers, panelists, sponsors and exhibitors, without whose support Hill Day would simply not be possible.However, even as we celebrate these milestones, there is much to be done. We need your continued advocacy to help advance the superfecta of bills the National Council has championed on your behalf through Congress and to have them turned into law. Please watch out for our Action Alerts and contact your members of Congress to urge co-sponsorship and support for our legislation.And what of the much-awaited Supreme Court decision? The ACA has been upheld and now pressure is on the states to act decisively. States need to decide whether to implement an insurance exchange or default to a federally run alternative; whether to expand their Medicaid programs; and how quickly and effectively they can implement eligibility systems. At the same time, the ACA’s effectiveness in reducing costs will come into sharp focus. As we move forward with implementation of the ACA, reducing costs is an imperative. The ACA’s provisions around insurance coverage have been simple compared to the promise to deliver on cost containment while improving quality. The spotlight will be on the features that are intended to reduce costs — features many of you are already executing — eliminating fee for service incentives and payments for unnecessary care; improved coordination between providers; adoption of information technologies; and implementation of health homes and accountable care organizations to coordinate care.As you continue on this journey, the National Council is here to help. We offer an array of practice improvement initiatives and consulting services — designed for the future — from open access to trauma treatment to EHR implementation; from services for co-occurring disorders to the expertise of the SAMHSA-HRSA Center for Integrated Health Solutions. We’re committed to building a skilled workforce. And we’ve certified 60,000 Mental Health First Aiders in 47 States. We support research, produce an army of policy papers, e-newsletters and webinars — and we create peer-to-peer learning opportunities.Please don’t hesitate to contact us at any time to see how you can take advantage of any of these opportunities. You can reach me at [email protected] or at 202.684.7457 at any time.Happy Fourth!Best Regards,Linda Rosenberg, MSWPresident and CEONational Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare

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