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House introduces reform bill

February 2, 2016
by Julie Miller, Editor in Chief
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Today House members of a health subcommittee introduced the Comprehensive Behavioral Health Reform and Recovery Act of 2016, led by Rep. Gene Green (D-Texas).

The bill increases investments across mental healthcare, reflecting ideas from previous legislative proposals, such as:

  • The Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act
  • The Mental Health Reform Act of 2015
  • The Strengthening Mental Health in Our Communities Act
  • The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2015

For example, the new bill establishes an Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Abuse, but retains the SAMHSA administrator to fill that role. SAMHSA would also gain a chief medical officer and would be subject to independent audits. Provisions also allow for IMD Medicaid payment for short stays.

Innovation, demonstration and block grants are included in the proposal, as well as $20 million set aside for mental health first aid training.

In a joint statement, the National Association of County Behavioral Health and Developmental Disability Directors and the National Association for Rural Mental Health called this a well balanced bill, saying that it “also recognizes the critical role played by trauma, recovery, and peers in behavioral healthcare, and the foundational importance of appropriate workforce infrastructure.”

The bill authors emphasized a sense of urgency to pass a comprehensive reform bill and highlighted specific provisions, such as expansion of the Excellence in Mental Health demonstration to include more states; repealing the 190-day lifetime cap for Medicare patients on psychiatric hospital stays; improvement in care coordination; greater enforcement of parity laws; and an update on Medicaid guidance. 

Find a section by section summary here.