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  • Washington Highlights

    House Passes Mental Health Reform Bill

    Len Marquez, Senior Director, Government Relations

    The House of Representatives July 6 passed (422-2) the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act (H.R. 2646), legislation aimed at reforming federal mental health agencies [see Washington Highlights, June 17].

    The bill maintains the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) but removes the administrator’s position and establishes a new assistant secretary at the Department of Health and Human Services who would lead mental health and substance use initiatives. The bill also keeps the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) intact and allows health care professionals to communicate with caregivers of individuals with serious mental illness. The bill additionally adopts the recent CMS Medicaid managed care rule language on the Institutions for Mental Disease (IMD) exclusion, which says states may make a capitation payment for enrollees with stays of no more than 15 days in IMDs.

    The bill now moves to the Senate where the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee April 26 approved a similar version, the Mental Health Reform Act of 2016 (S. 2680), which focuses on increasing access to mental health programs and coordination between agencies and programs.