The Massachusetts Senate and House passed the Mental Health Addressing Barriers to Care (ABC) Act. The final bill proposes a wide range of reforms to ensure equitable access to mental health care and to address barriers to care by supporting the workforce crisis. Although there are a lot of changes in the bill, some of the more relevant changes include:
- creating a clear structure for the Division of Insurance to receive and investigate parity complaints and ensure their timely resolution.
- increased reporting and oversight of insurance carriers’ mental health care coverage processes and policies.
- creating online portals to address emergency department boarding by providing access to real-time data on youth and adults seeking mental health and substance use services and has a search function for health care providers to easily search and find open beds.
- requiring an equitable rate floor for mental health evaluation and management services that is consistent with primary care provider rates.
- eliminating prior authorization for mental health acute treatment and stabilization services for adults and children.
- creating a suicide post-vention task force that will prepare best practices, mental health standards, and a post-vention care kit for behavioral health resources and supports to address the aftereffects of a confirmed suicide.
- requiring commercial insurance companies to cover Emergency Service Programs (ESPs), which are currently covered by only MassHealth.
- enhancing school-based behavioral health supports by limiting the use of suspension and expulsion and creating a statewide program to help schools implement school-based behavioral health services.
This is a great first step in Massachusetts to prioritizing mental health supports and parity, but there is still a lot to be done. Here at NAMI Mass, we believe in mental health parity and a fully funded, robust crisis response system. As we continue the work, we want to thank Senate President Karen Spika, Speaker Ron Mariano, Senator Julian Cyr, Senator Cindy Friedman, Senator Bruce Tarr, Representative Adrian Madaro, Representative Denise Garlick, and Representative Hannah Kane on their work to craft and pass the conference committee version of the bill as well as all the advocates who worked tirelessly on this legislation!