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Mental Health America (MHA) knows people are busy, so to help keep up with mental health advocacy tips and policy-related happenings, we created the Back Home Campaign Advocacy Update. We’ll summarize federal health-related goings on and offer a snapshot of our work. 

Are you working with elected officials in your state?

  1. Submit a Mental Health Champion nomination to your RPC Representative for your state leader to receive recognition at a 2019 Regional Policy Council (RPC) meeting.
  2. Tell us about your interactions with legislators through the Back Home Campaign form!

Mark Your Calendar

  • In lieu of Hill Day, MHA will be hosting “Mental Health Mondays” to conduct legislative advocacy every Monday during May, coinciding with Mental Health Month. Stay tuned for MHA materials and guides to help you talk to federal legislators “Back Home” in your state about critical mental health issues. This year MHA will focus Advocacy Mondays on how peer support and early intervention in childhood contribute to lower health care costs.

Federal

  • Early in March, a landmark decision was made in federal court about what we know happens and have been fighting against, that the federal parity law is violated by major health insurers when people seek substance use and mental health services. Read what MHA President Paul Gionfriddo said about Witt v. United Behavioral Health on MHA’s blog Chiming In by clicking here.
  • Last week was the 10-year anniversary of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) becoming law. The law made mental health and substance use disorder services basic benefits that all individual health insurance plans cover. Many accomplishments of the ACA, including the achievements for people with mental health and substance use conditions, are outlined in a chartbook by the Center for Budget Policy and Priorities. Click here to see the chartbook.
  • Not ironically, the Department of Justice, which had been defending the ACA in courts, surprised legal experts and delivered a letter stating the entire ACA should be struck down as unlawful. Read more about the DOJ’s stance in Health Affairs’ blog by clicking here.
  • MHA’s Policy Department submitted funding requests for peer specialists to the House of Representatives and submitted to the Senate Committee on Finance two priorities: parity enforcement and behavioral health integration, that the Committee should address in its work on lowering health care costs in 2019. MHA affiliates are asked to discuss support for these priorities with their elected officials and may request guidance from MHA staff and RPC Representatives on how to best to win support from their legislators.

State

  • MHA created model peer support legislation that all affiliates are encouraged to help introduce in their state to establish and/or recognize clinically-integrated peer support specialists. Not only does use of peer specialists help lower health care costs by reducing the need for expensive services - keeping people out of inpatient and emergency settings - peer specialists also help fill gaps in the behavioral health workforce as vast shortages grow across both urban and rural areas. Comprehensive research and reports on peers may be found in MHA’s Center for Peer Support.

Current Legislation

  • MHA supports U.S. Representative Kathy Castor’s bill which reverses the expansion of junk health plans. Rep. Castor (D-FL) introduced H.R. 1010, a bill that would reverse the 2018 rule promulgated by the Department of Labor which changed the definition of short-term, limited duration insurance (STLDI). H.R. 1010 was marked up in the House Energy and Commerce Committee on March 27th along with 11 other bills that are intended to improve health care affordability, stabilize the health market and lower prescription drug costs.

MHA Meetings and Letters

  • In February and March, MHA met with members of Congress from Colorado, New York, Tennessee and Texas, as well as committee leadership from the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension (HELP) Committee and the House Committee on Ways and Means to discuss:
    • training and integration of peer support specialists;
    • integration of behavioral health; 
    • social determinants of health; 
    • fostering cross-systems community collaboration; and
    • protecting access to Medicare Part D’s six protected classes.

Back Home Campaign Affiliate Spotlight

  • Mental Health Association of East Tennessee held a successful Hill Day in Nashville with participation from over 200 people with lived experience reaching over 100 legislators. Remarks were provided by Tennessee Governor Bill Lee, Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services Commissioner Marie Williams, and former Judge of Davidson County Mental Health Court, the Honorable Dan Eisenstein.

For any comments or questions about this mailing, email MHA's Caren Howard at choward@mentalhealthamerica.net.

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