Sunday, August 8, 2010

Mental Health Bill Introduced

Last year, ARRA provided incentive funds for health information technology however behavioral health, mental health, and substance abuse treatment professionals and facilities were excluded. To address this issue, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) just recently introduced legislation to correct that inequity.

“These providers are the backbone of our mental healthcare system, and it is vital that they have access to cost-saving and quality-enhancing advances in health IT”, said Senator Whitehouse. “By expanding the use of EHRs, my legislation will give mental health professionals access to comprehensive and up-to-date medical histories to enhance the precision of diagnoses and reduce medication errors.”

The legislation referred to as the “Health Information Technology Extension for Behavioral Health Services Act of 2010” will:

• Expand the types of providers eligible for Medicare and Medicaid incentives that use electronic health records to include licensed psychologists and clinical social workers
• Expand Medicare hospital incentive funding eligibility to include inpatient psychiatric hospitals
• Expand Medicaid hospital meaningful use incentive funding eligibility to include community mental health centers, mental health treatment facilities, psychiatric hospitals, and substance abuse treatment facilities
• Clarify eligibility of community mental health centers, psychiatric hospitals, behavioral and mental health professionals, substance abuse professionals, mental health treatment facilities, and substance abuse treatment facilities to obtain technical assistance from regional HIT Extension Centers

Companion legislation has also been introduced in the House by Congressman Patrick Kennedy (D-RI) and referred to the Subcommittee on Health.