Sunday, April 18, 2010

Addressing HIT & Mental Health

On April 14th, both Congressman Patrick J. Kennedy (D-RI) and Congressman Tim Murphy (R-PA) introduced the “Health Information Technology Extension for Behavioral Health Services Act of 2010”. The bill would extend the incentives for the “meaningful use” of electronic health records established by ARRA to ensure that behavioral and mental health professionals, psychiatric hospitals, along with behavioral and mental health treatment and substance abuse treatment facilities are eligible to participate.

“As co-chairs of the 21st Century Health Care Caucus, Congressman Murphy and I have long advocated for the adoption of EHRs as an efficient means to lower healthcare costs and reduce medical errors,” said Congressman Kennedy. The legislation would further extend the incentives included in the HITECH Act to the mental and behavioral health community.”

“Delivering health IT to mental and behavioral providers bridges the care for those with mental and physical illnesses. To best diagnose and treat patients, mental health professionals need complete, up-to-date medical histories. For instance when depression is not treated, the costs of caring for a person with chronic illness like heart disease can double. Electronic medical records ensure that physicians and mental health professionals are working together to deliver the best possible treatments”, explained Congressman Murphy.

“As a long time supporter of access to mental health services, I’m glad to see this legislation as a corrective action to a previous oversight. The vague language in the HITECH was insufficient to allow the equal access of mental health facilities to health IT grants”, said Congressman Gene Green (D-TX)

The grant program included in the bill would help mental health services:

• Purchase health IT
• Cover costs associated with upgrading HIT in order to meet the criteria required to become a certified EHR technology
• Train personnel in the use of health IT
• Improve the secure electronic exchange of health information in the mental health field
• Improve the adaption for health IT to community-based behavioral health settings
• Assist with the implementation of telemedicine, to include facilitating distance clinical consultations in rural and underserved areas
• Collaborate and integrate with health IT regional extension centers

To carry out the grant program, $15,000,000 for fiscal year 2011 would be appropriated. The bill (H.R. 5025) has been referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce and to the Committee on Ways and Means.