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Mental Health Access Improvement Act

Following a rough-and-tumble start to the 116th Congress, policies that could positively impact Centerstone are once again being introduced. Congress passed sweeping opioid legislation entitled the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act last year, but omitted a couple of our priorities from the final law.

Background

Recently, the U.S. House and U.S. Senate both reintroduced the Mental Health Access Improvement Act (H.R.945/S.286) – a bill that failed to make it into the SUPPORT Act last year despite being a strong contender. In an effort to support the bill’s speedy reintroduction this year, Centerstone played a pivotal role in working with the Medicare Access Coalition, recently re-branded as the Medicare Mental Health Workforce Coalition in drafting a concise document in support of this bill.

About the Bill

The Mental Health Access Improvement Act would amend current Medicare law to allow for Mental Health Counselors (MHCs) and Marriage and Family Therapists (MFTs) to become covered Medicare providers. In doing so, approximately 200,000 mental health providers would join the Medicare network, thus significantly alleviating the access crisis felt by Medicare beneficiaries and simultaneously lowering the strain on the remainder of our nation’s behavioral health workforce. With Medicare beneficiaries often experiencing the highest risk for mental health problems, but unlikely to receive clinically appropriate mental health services, this bill is necessary to help millions of Medicare beneficiaries receive the mental health services they need in a timely manner. (For more information on the need for this bill, please see this comprehensive packet.)

Share Your Support for this Bill

We ask that you reach out to your respective Senators and Congressional Representatives to share your support for the Mental Health Access Improvement Act. Please feel free to reference the documents we have linked you to within this post for talking points. (Sample statement also provided below.)

To contact your Senators, use the following phone numbers:

FLORIDA:

Senator Rick Scott (R-FL) D.C. contact: (202) 224-5274

Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) D.C. contact: (202) 224-3041

ILLINOIS:

Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) D.C. contact: (202) 224-2152

Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) D.C. contact: (202) 224-2854

INDIANA:

Senator Mike Braun (R-IN) D.C. contact: (202) 224-4814

Senator Todd Young (R-IN) D.C. contact: (202) 224-5623

KENTUCKY:

Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) D.C. contact: (202) 224-2541

Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) D.C. contact: (202) 224-4343

TENNESSEE:

Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) D.C. contact: (202) 224-4944

Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) D.C. contact: (202) 224-3344

To contact your Congressional Representative, click here or call the U.S. Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121 (a switchboard operator will connect you directly with your lawmaker’s office. You do not need to know his or her names; you can simply provide the switchboard with the county you live in).

Sample statement:

“Hello, my name is (name, city you live in, place you work). I am calling to share my support for the Mental Health Access Improvement Act (H.R.945/S.286) with Congressman ______/Senator _____. As an employee of a front-lines provider of behavioral health services to individuals with mental health and substance use disorders, I know that timely access to mental health services is vitally important in addressing people’s behavioral health conditions before the escalate into more serious medical events. (Include any examples you feel support this statement, without mentioning anyone’s name.) With baby-boomers now becoming eligible for Medicare, keeping Mental Health Counselors and Marriage and Family Therapists out of the Medicare program is an outdated, and dangerous policy. Please co-sponsor the Mental Health Access Improvement Act. Thank you.”

Sample social media posts:

Today, 50% of rural counties in America have no clinicians (psychiatrists, psychologists, or social workers) to address peoples’ mental health or substance use disorders. However, we can change this! Call (202) 224-3121 and ask to speak to your Senator. Once you have a staff person on the phone, let them know you support the Mental Health Access Improvement Act (S.286).

Today, Medicare is the largest single-payer for opioid overdose hospitalizations. However, if more Medicare beneficiaries had access to care when they needed it, they could get help before it’s too late.  The Mental Health Access Improvement Act (S.286) can help change this. Call (202) 224-3121 and let your Senator know you support this bill.

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