Healthcare Insider Blog

Important details regarding the Excellence in Mental Health Act

  • Healthcare Alvernia

Community behavioral health centers help millions of Americans with mental illnesses and addictions lead productive lives. New legislation will help them meet the rising demand for treatment services.

On March 31, Congress passed the Protecting Access to Medicare Act (H.R. 4302), which includes a program based on the Excellence in Mental Health Act. The bipartisan Excellence in Mental Health Act will increase Americans’ access to community mental health and substance use treatment services and improve Medicaid reimbursement for these services. The bill was introduced by Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Representatives Doris Matsui (D-CA) and Leonard Lance (R-NJ).

Decades of budget cuts have left many community behavioral health organizations struggling to provide adequate care. Several people with mental illnesses and addictions lack access to the evidence-based treatments, vast support services, and community partnerships proven to produce better health outcomes. They often end up with inadequate care provided in emergency rooms or jails, according to the National Council for Behavioral Health site.

Community behavioral health organizations are at the forefront of providing positive health outcomes; crisis response and suicide prevention; alcohol and drug abuse treatment and comprehensive outpatient mental health services.

The Excellence in Mental Health Act establishes criteria for Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics that would provide mental health services. These would include 24-hour crisis care and expanded family support programs. These clinics would provide intensive and multidisciplinary assessment, treatment, prevention and wellness services. The Secretary of the Department of Health & Human Services will establish a process for selecting the eight states to participate in a two-year pilot program, the National Council for Behavioral Health reports.

The clinics can be existing mental health centers, new centers or any health care provider that offers these services and meets the accountability standards. These facilities would then be able to receive payment for mental health services the same way that qualified health centers get paid for primary care services.

The Health & Human Services Secretary has until Sept. 1, 2015 to publish the criteria for Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics and guidance for states on the establishment of a prospective payment system for participating clinics.

Passage of the act is considered a major step in putting mental health on a level playing field with other healthcare services.

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