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Coalition site outlines IT policy priorities

November 21, 2014
by Julie Miller, Editor in Chief
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The Behavioral Health IT Coalition endorses two Senate bills and three House bills that support more use of health IT in behavioral healthcare. The proposals would change existing policy to include mental health and substance use treatment providers in the HITECH Act’s incentive program and also recognize mental health professionals as meaningful users of EHRs. The coalition launched a new website this week to provide resources, links to the bills and an outline of the group’s endorsement of proposed  IT policies.

Taking effect in 2010, the HITECH Act excluded psychologists and other behavioral health professionals from receiving government incentive payments and grants to adopt EHR systems. Eligible professionals include medical doctors and dentists, but the program also provides incentives for midwives, optometrists, chiropractors and others. Though incentives are offered through 2016, failure to meet the meaningful use requirements ultimately will result in penalties against eligible professionals. The act takes both the “carrot” approach with the financial incentives for adoption as well as the “stick” approach with penalties for not meeting various stages of meaningful use.

As of September 2014, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) handed out $25 billion in incentive payments to nearly half a million eligible providers.

Among the Behavioral Health IT Coalition's members are the National Council for Behavioral Health and the National Association of Psychiatric Health Systems.

“Health IT is critical to care coordination. While some health providers already use electronic health records to address the shockingly high mortality rates among people living with mental illnesses and addictions, far too few can muster the financial resources to do so. That’s why we need Congress to enact the bipartisan Behavioral Health IT Act, and this site supports their decision making,” said Linda Rosenberg, President and CEO of the National Council for Behavioral Health, in a press release. “It’s a one-stop shop for staff to understand how EHRs will work in the behavioral health field and how these bills affect their constituents.”

According to the site, the coalition supports:

  • Behavioral Health Information Technology Coordination Act of 2013 (S. 1685) sponsored by Senator Rob Portman (R-OH). 
  • Behavioral Health Information Technology Act of 2013 (H.R.2957) sponsored by Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA-18). 
  • Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act of 2013 (H.R. 3717)  sponsored by Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA-18). 
  • Behavioral Health Information Technology Act of 2013 (S. 1517) sponsored by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI). 
  • Strengthening Mental Health in Our Communities Act of 2013 (H.R.4574)  sponsored by Rep. Ron Barber (D-AZ-2).