By signing the 21st Century Cures Act, President Obama approved the first major mental health legislation in nearly a decade.
The Cures Act includes the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Reform Act, which combined mental health legislation from several Members of Congress. The Cures Act also includes sections that speed up drug approval at the FDA and provide new healthcare research money at NIH. There are several provisions in the mental health section that relate specifically to counselors.
The Cures Act passed both Houses of Congress nearly unanimously, showing the importance Congress is placing on healthcare research and improving the nation’s mental health programs and services. It is one of the few notable pieces of legislation passed in a year when there was little bipartisan agreement.
The new legislation encourages federal agencies to fund programs that are backed by research and to collect data on whether patients actually benefit. The bill strengthens laws mandating parity for mental health care and includes grants to increase the number of mental health professionals in areas where they are in short supply across the country.
The Cures Act improves integration and program coordination across federal agencies that serve people with mental illness, and removes barriers to mental health care. It helps people with mental illness who become involved in the criminal justice system to keep them out of jail and in treatment.
The Cures Act also:
- Provides resources to fight the opioid epidemic.
- Invests in early intervention so people get mental health care at the right time, even in childhood.
- Provides resources to fight suicide in schools and communities.
- Authorizes funding for the development of model training and educational programs to educate health providers, individuals and families regarding the permitted use and disclosure of health information under HIPAA.
- Provides screening and treatment for maternal depression.
- Establishes an Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use to head SAMHSA.
The Cures Act tells states to use at least ten percent of their mental health block grants on coordinated specialty care to provide early intervention for significant mental health problems. The bill also establishes a grant program to provide assertive community treatment programs and expands a grant program for assisted outpatient treatment, which provides court-ordered care for people with serious mental illness who might otherwise not seek help.
Counselors or counseling are specifically included in the following sections of the bill:
- Section 6005, which directs SAMHSA to collaborate with HRSA on ways to encourage individuals to pursue careers in mental health, especially in rural areas.
- Section 9021, which reauthorizes grants to institutions of higher learning to support the recruitment and education of mental health care providers, including both counselors and school counselors.
- Section 9024, which establishes a Minority Fellowship Program that will increase the number of professionals who provide mental or substance abuse disorder services to underserved minority populations and improve the quality of services to those populations.
- Section 9031, which reauthorizes the Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Services on Campuses grant program, and increases awareness and training to respond effectively to students with mental health and substance use disorders; to provide outreach to administer voluntary screenings and assessments to students; and to provide direct mental health services.
- Section 10002, which authorizes HRSA to award grants to promote behavioral health integration in pediatric primary care, and includes counselors in pediatric mental health teams.
- Section 11004, which requires the Secretary of Health and Human Services to develop model training and educational programs to educate health care providers, regulatory compliance staff, and others regarding the permitted use and disclosure of health information under HIPAA.
Members of Congress responsible for writing and passing this legislation include Congressman Tim Murphy (PA), Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (TX), Senator Chris Murphy (CT), Senator Bill Cassidy (LA) and Senator John Cornyn (TX).
A detailed summary of the mental health legislation can be found here.
Read more ACA Government Affairs Blog posts here.