Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Roy Blunt (R-MO), along with a group of bipartisan colleagues, introduced the Excellence in Mental Health Act, to strengthen our nation’s mental health services. The bill allows federally qualified mental health centers to bill Medicaid for their services, thereby expanding access to mental health centers for an estimated 1.5 million additional people a year. The Excellence in Mental Health Act also establishes criteria for Federally Qualified Community Behavioral Health Centers to ensure the centers cover a broad range of mental health services including providing 24-hour crisis care, integrating physical, mental and substance abuse treatment, and expanding peer support and counselor services for patients and families.
At a press conference announcing the bill, co-sponsors spoke to the importance of the legislation for families who often have to see their loved ones go without the care and treatment they need, and also urgency in light of the recent Newtown shooting. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) raised the importance of ensuring health care coverage for all physical and mental illness alike. Although the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA) was enacted in 2008, it wasn’t until last month that President Obama ordered a number of executive actions aimed at improving access to mental health care, including directing federal agencies to issue final rules implementing the MHPAEA.
Representative Doris O. Matsui (D-CA) is planning to introduce companion legislation in the House next week.