“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
FY2017 Budget – Update
The Legislature enacted the FY 2017 budget in particularly challenging circumstances. Towards the end of the process, the goalposts moved when new projections indicated that there would be $750 million less in tax revenue in FY 2017 than had been assumed throughout the budget process. The new projections required substantial changes by the conference committee that was negotiating the final budget. The final budget includes some cuts below the levels that had been recommended by either the House or Senate, as well as a number of strategies that provide only temporary solutions by pushing costs into future years and underfunding accounts that will eventually need to be funded.
Funding for mental health services in the Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 legislative budget total $761.1 million, essentially level with the Senate’s funding, and slightly above the funding level proposed by the House. This budget represents an increase over FY 2016 funding, with a notable increase in funding for residential behavioral health treatment which is an important component of the Legislature’s and Administration’s commitment to treating substance abuse and addiction.
• Funding for adult mental health services together total $439.2 million. This is a $3.2 million increase. These services include $4.0 million to support community-based placements for adults discharged from continuing care, and services for homeless adults who need mental health services.
• Funding for facilities and inpatient care includes a total of $205.9 million. This total is $9.3 million above FY 2016 current funding. This increase (4.7 percent) provides expanded support for residential behavioral health treatment. This funding would cover the costs of 45 substance use treatment beds at Taunton State Hospital, added in part to ensure that women would not need to be civilly-committed to MCI-Framingham for substance abuse treatment.
• Child and adolescent mental health services includes $88.7 million in funding. This includes an earmark of $3.6 million for the Mass. Child Psychiatry Access Program to improve access to treatment for children with behavioral health needs and their families by providing quick and ready access to psychiatric consultation for primary care providers across Massachusetts. The language also notes that $500,000 of that total would help expand the program statewide in order to provide consultation for primary care providers who are seeing women with signs of postpartum depression. The budget includes a provision (Section 36) that would put into statute language for this program.
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 sent the bill to study.
Senate Bill #2320 An Act to establish the Center of Excellence in Community Policing and Behavioral Health
Police officers are key first responders. With the right mental health training and partnerships, they can de-escalate situations, prevent unnecessary arrest or violence, and connect people to appropriate treatment and support. However, only 17% of police departments in Massachusetts have access to adequate mental health training. Without a cohesive statewide strategy, police efforts are disjointed and both officers and community members are at risk.
Senate Bill #2320, An Act Creating a Center of Excellence in Community Policing and Behavioral Health will:
• Expand vitally-needed access to mental health training to every police department in the state.
• Foster partnerships between criminal justice and health provider agencies.
• Evaluate and coordinate best practices.
Massachusetts lags behind the rest of the country in terms of how we respond to people with mental health and/or substance use crises in our communities:
• 50% of those in Mass jails and houses of correction have a mental health condition.
• Many of these arrests are for minor, “quality of life” offenses – symptoms of behavioral health conditions rather than criminal behavior.
• Once arrested, the consequences are devastating: trauma, loss of employment and housing, risk of injury, worsening of symptoms, significant public costs, and more.
Update: Bill heard on 6-14-16. No Further Action.
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: Both bills were sent to study
Senate Bill #578 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: Joint Committee on Health Care Financing sent the bill to study.
Reimbursement Rates for Health Care Providers
Behavioral health services are underserved, under-reimbursed, and disproportionately provided to low-income and disabled MassHealth patients. From hospitals to clinics and everywhere else services are provided, there has been no coordinated effort to permanently improve provider reimbursement rates and incentives that will facilitate the delivery of high quality, integrated behavioral health care to all. As a result, and as we are acutely aware, many providers have reduced behavioral health services and abandoned this critical area of need. NAMI will seek comprehensive remedies to these problems in the FY2017 budget and beyond in order to increase funding and incentivize providers to ensure adequate access to these critical services throughout the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
Update: The FY2017 managed care line item includes a $1.0 million increase for rates for behavioral health and substance abuse providers.
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