The Budget, Parity and Bills

In this post, more about the budget, a little news on parity, and bill updates, including exciting news about school behavioral health legislation.

Budget Amendments

As I mentioned last week, the full House is scheduled to take up and consider CSSB 1, the budget bill, this Thursday. House members pre-filed a total of 267 budget amendments, which will make for a loooong day for members. Several behavioral-health related amendments have been pre-filed, including:

An amendment by Alonzo, which would require the collection of behavioral health outcomes data for indigent & Medicaid-eligible LGBT youth;

An amendment by Bohac, which would designate 5% of children’s mental health funding to mental health promotion, literacy and personal safety activities. This is a recommendation from the School Behavioral Health Initiative;

An amendment by Burnam to require expansion of Medicaid to all populations eligible under the Affordable Care Act;

An amendment by Sarah Davis to fund best practice-based school behavioral health programming; and

An amendment by Naishtat to fund an institution of higher education to provide technical assistance to communities across the state in implementing evidence-based and promising practices to serve children with Serious Emotional Disturbance.

All 267 amendments can be found here.

Getting Serious on Parity

As many of you know, the Paul Wellstone and Pete Dominici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA) passed in 2008. However, to this date, the Obama Administration has not issued final rules for the law, which leaves in limbo some of the treatment and coverage requirements of the law. There has been speculation that some insurance companies have been skirting provisions of the law, and now, finally, the first class-action lawsuit citing MHPAEA violations has been filed. The lawsuit, which was filed in New York, accuses United-Health, UHC Insurance, United Healthcare of New York, and United Behavioral Health of violating the law by, among other things, limiting psychotherapy visits and denying long-term treatment. In the absence of final rules, there may be more lawsuits filed that seek to clarify these provisions.

If you are someone you know feels your insurance company is denying you needed mental health or substance abuse services in violation of MHPAE, please visit the national Mental Health America Parity Center to share your story. The Obama Administration needs to hurry up and issue those almost 5 year-late rules, or they may end up writing themselves through lawsuits!

Bill Updates

We’ve had some major movement on a number of mental health and substance abuse bills, but before I cover the full list, I want to hone in on specific school behavioral health legislation that passed Senate Education last week.

For those who recall, I mentioned in an earlier post that Sen. Dan Patrick, Chair of the Senate Education Committee, has previously expressed support for behavioral health initiatives and that I hoped we would see that reflected in the legislation that passes his committee. Well, last Thursday that hope came true!

The Senate Education Committee heard 3 pieces of school behavioral health legislation that MHA is supporting:

SB 831
Relating to a list of mental health, substance abuse, and suicide prevention programs that may be selected for implementation by public schools;

SB 1178
Relating to training for public school educators in identifying mental health and suicide risks among students; and

SB 1352
Relating to inclusion of mental health concerns in existing state and local coordinated school health efforts.

Particularly on SB 1178, the committee heard very moving testimony from a number of family members who have lost loved ones to suicide, including Linda de Sosa, a School Behavioral Health Initiative participant. After the testimony, two witnesses who initially were opposed to the bill withdrew their opposition.

All three bills sailed out of the committee unanimously, and the bills were referred to the Local and Uncontested Calendar. If they remain on that calendar, they will pass the Senate without debate.

Thanks to everyone who testified in favor of, or registered support for, these important bills.  We’ve got to start investing in prevention and early intervention if we are truly going to improve outcomes for children and adults down the line!

Other behavioral health legislation on the move include the following bills that have been voted out of committee:

HB 915
Relating to the administration and monitoring of certain medications provided to foster children.

HB 978
Relating to the transportation of certain patients to a mental health facility.

HB 1738
Relating to a standard form of notification for the detention of a person with mental illness.

SB 11
Relating to the administration and operation of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program.

SB 1115
Relating to reporting, standards, and restrictions regarding public school disciplinary actions.

In addition, the following bills have been voted out of their respective chambers:

HB 144
Relating to a mental examination of a child subject to the juvenile justice system.

SB 36
Relating to the detention and transportation of a person with a mental illness.

SB 58
Relating to the integration of behavioral health and physical health services into the Medicaid managed care program.

SB 152
Relating to the protection and care of persons who are elderly or disabled or who are children.

SB 250
Relating to the requirements of using certain technology to conduct certain mental health hearings or proceedings.

SB 256
Relating to tracking career information for graduates of Texas medical schools and persons completing medical residency programs in Texas.

SB 401
Relating to a notification requirement if a school counselor is not assigned to a public school campus.

SB 462
Relating to specialty court programs in this state.

SB 715
Relating to use of consistent terminology to refer to school counselors in the Education Code.

SB 944
Relating to criminal history record checks for certain employees of facilities licensed by the Department of State Health Services.

SB 1185
Relating to the creation of a mental health jail diversion pilot program.

To see MHA’s full bill tracker for summaries and positions, click here.

That’s all I’ve got for now!  Toodles!

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