As the Senate Finance Committee deadline to collect recommendations on improving mental health and substance use services, the House Bipartisan Addiction and Mental Health Task Force package may offer some bicameral agreement and strategies.
On September 29, 2021, the Bipartisan Addiction & Mental Health Task Force, led by Rep. Ann McLane Kuster (D-NH), Rep David Trone (D-MD-06), Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), and Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA), held a press conference to announce their bipartisan blueprint that included 66 bills highlighting prevention, treatment, rural and underserved communities, workforce development, first responders, interdiction, children and families, veterans, prescribing, education, health care access, and health parity. Outlined below are a few of the specific bills that would help children and families dealing with these behavioral health challenges:
H.R 5242 Opioid Settlement Accountability Act, In 2019, there was a series of negligence litigations against opioid manufacturers for their excessive production of opioids causing the opioid epidemic. In response, this bill would reinvest litigation awards into programs directed to conquer the opioid epidemic. The bill proposes allocating litigation awards to 1) opioid prevention and treatment services; 2) health care practitioner training; 3) first responder equipment; or 4) social support services. The bill also forbids the states from receiving decreased Medicaid funding as a result of increased opioid-epidemic response or prevention programming.
HR 4944 Helping Kids Cope Act, would increase the scope of health care provider grant funding. Use of funds includes grants for recruitment and retention of health care workers, training, expanding evidence-based models, addressing surge capacity, pediatric care via telehealth, decompression of emergency departments, preventive and crisis intervention services, urgent care, school-based partnerships, and other gaps in health services. The legislation would add psychologists, psychiatrists, and other mental health professionals to the list of grant eligible health care workers. To support these activities, the legislation provides $100,000,000 per fiscal years 2022-2026.
HR 1647 Telehealth Response for E-Prescribing Addiction Therapy Services (TREATS) Act
With telehealth playing a more prevalent role during emergency situations, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, this TREATS Act, increases the scope for telehealth substance abuse disorders and other mental health problems. The legislation would provide permanency for telehealth usage in mental health and substance abuse disorders in the form of audio-only telehealth if the patient has already met with the professional with video or in-person.
H.R. 3450 Medicaid Bump Act, this legislation amends title XIX of the Social Security Act (MEDICAID) to increase the Federal matching rate in Medicaid for behavioral health and substance abuse services. The match rate will increase to an amount equal to 90 percent of which funding will be provided for offering, arranging, and furnishing a state plan of behavioral health services. Within the Stat plan requirements, use of funding entails that along with an increase of capacity, efficiency, and quality of services, there is to be an increase of payment rates for services providers to ensure a reduction of turnover rate.
H.R. 721 Mental Health Services for Students Act of 2021, amends the Public Health Service Act, revising and extending projects relating to children while providing access to school-based comprehensive mental health programs. The purpose of this program is to increase awareness of mental health issues among school-aged youth; provide training in order to detect and respond to mental health issues; and to provide services to children and families who struggle with mental health issues.
H.R. 3572 Increasing Access to Mental Health in Schools Act, this bill (with a companion bill in the Senate) provides grants to low-income schools by supporting partnerships between institutions of higher education and local education agencies, in order to increase the number of school-based mental health professionals employed by low-income local educational agencies.