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Mental Health America (MHA) knows people are busy so we created the Back Home Campaign Advocacy Update to summarize federal and state mental health news and activities. If you’d like to learn about happenings in particular that are not addressed, please let us know by emailing MHA’s Caren Howard at choward@mhanational.org.

Advocacy Programming

Thank you to everyone who participated in MHA’s “Advocacy Mondays” during May is Mental Health Month! Instead of visiting Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, MHA invited advocates to visit federal legislators Back Home in their states. Over 250 people downloaded our Act B4Stage4 Advocacy Toolkit and many people called, wrote, visited and interacted on social media with their members of Congress!

If you or your organization did not have a chance to speak with your legislators in May, the toolkit is designed to be helpful year-round. Download it here.

Federal

  • A major milestone for parity, the Senate Health Committee included the Mental Health Parity Compliance Act, sponsored by MHA Legislative Champions Senators Bill Cassidy (LA) and Chris Murphy (CT), as part of the Lower Health Care Costs Act. The Lower Health Care Costs Act is largely bipartisan legislation to slow cost growth and is on track to be enacted in the coming weeks. The parity provision will now require transparency and accountability in insurers’ coverage decisions, including how non-quantitative treatment limitations (NQTLs) are designed and applied to mental health and substance use services in comparison to physical health services.
  • MHA is excited to report that in May the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) published a final rule outlining the Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Benefit guidance excluding any proposed changes to the ‘six protected classes’ of drugs, including antidepressants, antipsychotics, and anticonvulsants. Thank you to everyone for your help getting the message to Congress and the Administration that loosening protections on these critical classes of prescriptions would certainly harm people with mental and substance use conditions who rely on them as part of their recovery!
  • MHA eagerly awaits Medicaid’s forthcoming announcement of $16 million in funding for up to eight (8) states each, to assist adoption of a new payment concept for coordinating systems to identify and treat children’s mental health conditions. For more information about the Integrated Care for Kids (InCK) Model, and to see if your state won results will likely be posted at: https://innovation.cms.gov.
  • The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee held a three-part hearing series on the Opioid Crisis on March 7, May 5, and June 19. To view these hearings, visit: http://oversight.house.gov.

Current Federal Legislation

Call, write, post or tweet to your legislators to lend your support to the following bills MHA is supporting:

  • Overdose Prevention and Patient Safety Act introduced by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (OR-3) and Sen. Joe Manchin (WV). H.R. 2062/ S. 1012 would align an old law with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act to fully integrate substance use health information.
  • Resilience Investment, Support, and Expansion (RISE) from Trauma Act introduced by Sens. Richard Durbin (IL) and Shelley Moore Capito (WV). S. 1770 would prevent and mitigate childhood trauma’s impact on mental health.
  • Mental Health Services for Students Act introduced by Rep. Grace Napolitano (CA-32) and Sen. Tina Smith (MN). H.R. 1109/S. 1122 would extend mental health services in schools, a key access point for children before a crisis.
  • Mental Health Professionals Workforce Shortage Loan Repayment Act introduced by John Katko (NY-24). H.R. 2431 would authorize a new loan repayment program in designated mental health professional shortage areas.

State

  • MHA appreciates the opportunity to work with affiliates and state Mental Health Legislative Champions to introduce legislation for state recognition of clinically-integrated peers. Some legislators plan to introduce this legislation in their 2020 sessions and other states are working with their regulatory agencies to incorporate peers as part of clinical teams.
  • Congratulations to states that have passed parity and mental health education legislation in their 2019 session!
    • States that passed Parity: Colorado, Connecticut, Maine, Minnesota, New Jersey, Wyoming
    • States that passed or are close to passing funding for Mental Health Education in Schools: Colorado, New Jersey, Texas
  • Unfortunately, South Carolina is the latest state to request approval from the Administration to impose work documentation requirements on Medicaid recipients.

Back Home Campaign Affiliate Spotlight

  • A special thank you to MHA of Los Angeles, Mental Health Connecticut, and Mental Health Minnesota for contacting their members of Congress to ask for federal funding for building the national peer workforce. Though the funding request was not included in the Fiscal Year 2020 spending bills, we got the attention of Congress through affiliate legislative advocacy!
  • MHA affiliates: contact your RPC Representative for information about receiving a travel stipend to attend an upcoming Regional Policy meeting in Nashville, Austin, and San Juan.

For any comments or questions about this mailing, email choward@mentalhealthamerica.net.

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