House committee advances mental health, suicide prevention funding

afsp2On Wednesday, the House Energy and Commerce Committee unanimously approved a revised version of the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act (H.R. 2646).

Introduced and championed by Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA), the bill now heads to the House floor where it awaits consideration from the full chamber. According to reports, Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) aims to bring the bill up for a vote by the full House this summer.

The passage of H.R. 2646 signals the latest action from the House of Representatives on meaningful mental health legislation.

Key provisions of the amended Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act include:

  • IMD Exclusion – The bill codifies a limit on Medicaid coverage for inpatient mental health care at institutions for mental diseases (IMDs) per the final Medicaid managed care rule.
  • HIPAA – The bill no longer includes language that would loosen Health Information Portability Accountability Act (HIPAA) restrictions. It does, however, create a program to educate providers about what information can and cannot be shared.
  • Parity – The approved legislation no longer requires the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to report on federal investigations into compliance with the law. It does requires the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to complete a study detailing federal oversight of group health plans – including Medicaid managed care plans – to ensure those plans are not using discriminatory coverage limitations for persons with mental health and substance use conditions.
  • Grant Programs – The approved bill reauthorizes grant programs – including the Garrett Lee Smith program and a program dedicated to early intervention and prevention of youth suicide. No new funding streams were provided these initiatives.
  • Assisted Outpatient Treatment (AOT) – The amended version no longer includes a provision that would provide states with existing AOT laws a 2 percent increase in block grant funding, as was included in previous drafts. The bill extends an assisted outpatient grant program for individuals with a serious mental illness (SMI) through 2020.
  • Assistant Secretary for Mental Health – The new bill includes the creation of an Assistant Secretary for Mental Health within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). This position assumes the roles and responsibilities of the SAMHSA Administrator but will no longer require Senate confirmation.
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – For the first time, the bill codifies the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

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