Your Voice in Washington: Netsmart Leadership on Key Public Policy Issues

Netsmart continues to be a strong advocate on behalf of our clients and providers across the country.

House and Senate Bills Propose Pilot Program: Incentives for Behavioral Health and Addiction Treatment Provider Use of EHRs and Care Coordination

Two bipartisan bills were introduced in Congress recommending the creation of a pilot program within the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI) with health IT incentives for the adoption of EHR technology, and use of that technology to improve quality and coordination of care through the electronic exchange of health information. Eligible providers would include psychiatric hospitals, community behavioral health centers, residential and outpatient mental health and substance use treatment facilities, and clinical psychologists and social workers.

Cong. Lynn Jenkins (R-KS) and Rep. Doris Matsui (D-CA) introduced H.R. 3331 in the U.S. House of Representatives. Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) then introduced the Improving Access to Behavioral Health Information Technology Act (S. 1732), the Senate counterpart bill to H.R. 3331.

Netsmart advocated for this legislation, and will continue to do so as the bills move to committee consideration this Fall.

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42 CFR Part 2 Reform: Simplifying Consent While Protecting Patient Privacy

Netsmart has advocated strongly to simplify the consent process for patients wishing to share addiction treatment records with their healthcare providers, including integrated care organizations like Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs), Health Information Exchanges (HIEs) and Medicaid Health Homes. Netsmart’s position is that the ultimate goal of consent should be that any person – whether suffering from a substance use disorder, mental illness, diabetes or multiple co-occurring conditions – be able to share his or her health data with their healthcare providers, utilizing today’s technology, with equal simplicity if they so desire, and not to prohibit or make it more difficult for them to do so just because they have a substance use disorder. If someone does not wish to do so, they should have the clear option to either opt-out or choose not to opt-in to sharing that information.

H.R. 3545 Simplifies Sharing of Substance Use Disorder (SUD) Information with Treating Providers

Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA) introduced The Overdose Prevention and Patient Safety Act (H.R. 3545) in the U.S. House. The proposed legislation more closely aligns 42 CFR Part 2 regulations with HIPAA, and helps ensure all clinicians involved in a person’s care will get the full picture of their health. This makes it easier to mitigate the negative impact of co-occurring conditions, enhances patient safety and reduces the stigma associated with SUD. Significantly, the bill also further strengthens protections and prohibitions against disclosures of SUD information for criminal justice purposes.

More Information

Cong. Tim Murphy news release

Partnership to Amend 42 CFR Part 2 letter

Congress.gov information about H.R. 3545

Other 42 CFR Part 2 Reform Advocacy   

Interim Report: White House Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis

A special Presidential commission on addiction and opioids released its interim report this week, and its position on 42 CFR Part 2 aligns closely with the Murphy bill.

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Executive Summary

Netsmart and MHA Team to Correct Part 2 Reform Misperceptions

Concerned about inaccurate claims that updates to 42 CFR Part 2 would compromise patient privacy, Netsmart and Mental Health America (MHA) issued a joint press release reemphasizing their support for legislation in Congress that would update decades-old 42 CFR Part 2 provisions.

  • Read the Netsmart/MHA press release
  • Read the memorandum about HIPAA protections for substance use disorder information
  • Read the letter from the Patient Safety Movement about patient safety aspects of 42 CFR Part 2


U.S. News & World Report story

Netsmart’s Kevin Scalia quoted about patient consent in article about mental health legislation in Congress.

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Netsmart Comments: SAMHSA 42 CFR Part 2 Update Listening Session

Here are Netsmart’s comments about the need to update 42 CCR Part 2 submitted in conjunction with a Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) June 2014 Listening Session on the confidentiality of alcohol and drug abuse patient records.

View Netsmart comments


Substance Use Treatment in a Digital Era

In an Open Letter to the Wall Street Journal and Modern Healthcare, Netsmart CEO Mike Valentine says updated privacy regulations "would enable coordination of care and save lives."

Read Letter

21st Century Cures Act

This comprehensive legislation, passed by Congress and signed into law in December 2016, authorizes $1 billion over the next two years to address the opioid crisis, and creates and reauthorizes a number of federal mental health grant programs. It also includes a number of health IT-related provisions on interoperability, data sharing/exchange and electronic health records.

Other Public Policy Advocacy   

Meaningful Use Funding Parity with Physical Health

The HITECH Act’s incentive program to encourage the meaningful use of electronic health records (EHRs) has helped thousands of eligible providers and facilities fully use EHRs to manage patient health data, share authorized data with other providers, and measure quality to improve outcomes and lower costs.

Unfortunately, mental health, addiction treatment, and other human services providers were not fully included in the Meaningful Use program. Netsmart has aggressively advocated to extend full eligibility to mental health treatment facilities, psychiatric hospitals and substance use treatment facilities, and to expand the types of providers eligible for incentives to include clinical psychologists and licensed social workers.


Mental Health and Addiction Parity Enforcement

Netsmart has joined many advocacy and industry groups to support strong implementation and enforcement of the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA) of 2008. This law generally prevents group health plans and health insurance issuers that provide mental health or substance use disorder benefits from imposing less favorable benefit limitations on those benefits than on medical/surgical benefits.

Read Mental Health Parity Coalition letter encouraging Congress to enact mental health reform legislation with strong parity protection.

Anna Westin Act Included in 21st Century Cures Bill

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), 10 percent of the population will experience an eating disorder such as anorexia, bulimia or binge eating during their lifetimes.

In December 2016, Congress passed The 21st Century Cures Act. Included in that legislation was The Anna Westin Act of 2015. This bill, introduced by Sen. Amy Jean Klobuchar (D-Minn.) is the first to address eating disorders specifically. To learn more about the life and legacy of Anna Westin, as well as the journey that took her parents Mark and Kitty from grief to advocacy, visit our non-profit advocacy foundation, EveryDay Matters and view the documentary A Journey of Love: The Anna Westin Story.

Matching Funds to States for Coordinated Care

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has announced it will permit states to apply for 90 percent HITECH matching funds for expenditures related to helping a broader variety of Medicaid providers exchange health information with other providers.

While the funds will be provided to states and not directly to providers, this initiative is a financial incentive for states to include behavioral health and other providers in state-funded Health Information Exchanges (HIEs), health homes and other coordinated care initiatives.

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How Can I Help?

Your letters and meetings with legislators do make a difference! For information on how to lend your voice of support to critical legislation impacting Netsmart clients and those they serve, contact Dave Kishler, Netsmart Director of Industry Relations, at 740.819.6760 or dkishler@ntst.com.

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