“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has” – Margaret Meade
NAMI Massachusetts 2016 Legislative Priorities
Restore Funding to the Department of Mental Health Over the past decade, the Commonwealth has made significant cuts in excess of $55 Million to the DMH budget. Despite increases we have fought for and won over the past two budget years, Massachusetts still ranks among the lowest New England states in terms of mental health funding. Without a significant and sustained commitment to increase funding, thousands of families in Massachusetts will lose access to appropriate services. For FY2016, NAMI will be requesting a significant increase over FY2015 levels to ensure access is available to all.
Update: FY2016 budget for mental health is $740.5 million, $26.8 million or 4 percent higher FY 2015.
House Bill # 786 – An Act Requiring Mental Health Parity for Disability Policies Sponsored by Representative Ruth Balser This legislation eliminates the discriminatory practice that allows insurance companies to end long-term disability benefits for people with mental illness after two years, even as policies for those with a physical illness provide coverage while a person is under the care of a doctor and until age 65.
Update: Joint Committee on Financial Services heard the bill on 10-15-15. No further Action.
Creation of the Center of Excellence – CIT Training and Community Outreach
It is increasingly evident that Massachusetts must improve the capacity of police departments to respond effectively to behavioral health and substance abuse related crises. This results in increased safety for individuals, officers, and communities and more important results in reductions in unnecessary arrests and incarcerations and corresponding public costs. The goal is to provide greater access to treatment and recovery for individuals with substance use and mental health conditions. To accomplish this goal, NAMI Mass proposes the creation of the Center of Excellence which will be a statewide resource to provide six 40-hour Crisis Intervention Team trainings per year, held at regional training centers across the state. Five of the annual trainings will be for law enforcement officers, with one training per year offered to other first responders, such as ambulance personnel and firefighters.
The Center will recruit high-quality trainers – experienced mental health providers and law enforcement officers local to each regional training – and develop curriculum based on best practices and current needs. The Center will play a key role in ending the opioid crisis by:
Working in partnership with the Executive Office of Health and Human Services and the Municipal Police Training Committee, the Forensic Services Office of the Department of Mental Health, and the Association for Behavioral Healthcare, the Center will also produce vital research on models that are most effective in achieving these goals.
Senate Bill # 1027 & House Bill # 787 – An Act to Require Health Care Coverage for Emergency Psychiatric Services Sponsored by Senator Kenneth Donnelly and Representative Ruth Balser These two bills are identical and each requires commercial insurance companies to pay for behavioral health emergency services provided by emergency services providers (ESPs) across the state. Presently, children and adults who receive MassHealth benefits are covered by ESP providers but unfortunately, most children and adults with private health insurance are not. This must change.
Update: Bills were referred to two separate committees. H787 has not been heard by the Joint Committee on Financial Services. S1027 heard on 10-22-15 by Committee on Mental Health and Substance Abuse.
Senate Bill #587 – An Act Relative to Mental Health Certified Peer Specialists Sponsored by Senator James Eldridge This legislation requires MassHealth to cover certified peer specialist services, provided that said certified peer specialist has completed training that teaches participating peers specific skills relevant to providing peer support to other peers.
Update: Bill was heard on June 24, 2015 by the Committee on Health Care Financing. No further action.
Increase MassHealth Reimbursement Rates for Behavioral Health Care Providers Behavioral health services have been chronically under-reimbursed by MassHealth. As a result, low-income and disabled MassHealth members needing these services suffer badly because many psychiatric hospital beds have closed as well as mental health clinics. Behavioral health professionals should not have to choose between dropping out of MassHealth or working on the financial margins. NAMI Mass members and constituents are dependent on having adequate, high-quality services. Therefore, increasing behavioral health reimbursement is a top NAMI Mass priority. NAMI will seek comprehensive remedies to these problems in the FY2016 budget that increases MassHealth funding and incentivizes providers to ensure appropriate access to these critical services throughout the Commonwealth.
Update: Still Pending
January 21, 2016
NAMI Massachusetts Position Papers:
Massachusetts Emergency Behavioral Health Services Program (PDF) Find Your Legislators: To find who your legislators are or where to vote call 617-722-2000