During the National Council for Behavioral Health’s annual Hill Day event, 600 behavioral health providers, administrators and stakeholders walked the halls of Capitol Hill to meet with elected officials and advocate for better resources for mental health and addiction disorder treatment.
Key issues included:
- Strengthening the addiction treatment workforce
- FY 2018 mental health and substance use appropriations
- Expanding the Excellence In Mental Health Act
- Improving access to behavioral health information technology
- Mental Health Access Improvement Act Of 2017
- Strengthening Medicaid
Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) spoke at the kickoff event and discussed the recent GOP health proposals that would have reduced funding for programs critical to addressing the opioid crisis. He and others cautioned that some Affordable Care Act provisions could still be changed through other legislative processes and that providers must continue to deliver their messages to elected officials.
“For every one of you in this room, we need 10 more,” he said at the event.
Donnelly is championing the bipartisan Strengthening the Addiction Treatment and Workforce Act, introduced in June with Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), which would provide incentives for providers to practice at addiction treatment facilities in underserved areas.
“It says if you’re willing to make a two-year commitment to a community, then we’re willing to help with up to $50,000 in loan repayment,” Donnelly said.
Congressional staffers—and some elected officials who were present in their offices on Tuesday—were receptive to National Council members’ stories from the front lines of healthcare and their short list of “asks.” For example, Hill Day participants from Ohio asked officials to support a change to allow Medicare to pay for behavioral health services delivered by licensed counselors and marriage and family therapists. Legislation is needed to update decades-old Medicare rules to better reflect today’s provider licensing processes.