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.

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.

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.

Primary Advocacy Focus   

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 and addiction treatment providers are not fully included in the Meaningful Use program. Netsmart is aggressively advocating 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.

Other Meaningful Use and Parity Advocacy Background Material   

Roll Call Article

A commentary by Kevin Scalia, Netsmart executive vice president, about the importance of extending the full benefits of the HITECH Act to the behavioral health community.

BHIT Coalition-Sponsored Congressional Meaningful Use Briefing

Netsmart is a founding member of the Behavioral Health IT (BHIT) Coalition, an advocacy group comprised of key organizations, including the National Council for Behavioral Health, the National Association of Psychiatric Health Systems and others. The BHIT Coalition is a strong advocate for passage of corrective legislation in Congress to extend full Meaningful Use incentive eligibility to behavioral health providers.

The BHIT Coalition sponsored a briefing in December 2014 at the U.S. Capitol to further educate key Senate staff about the critical need for our health care system to consider behavioral health as equal to physical health.

One of the three panelists was Rebecca Smith, CIO of Henderson Behavioral Health, a Netsmart client in southeast Florida. Rebecca talked about how Henderson has begun receiving quick and confidential emergency room referrals from Memorial Healthcare System (MHS) as a way to ensure care continuity, financial savings and timely delivery of effective, targeted treatment to Henderson clients. The Netsmart CareConnect™ solution is the catalyst for this project that integrates information from a Netsmart CareRecord™ (EHR) used by Henderson and the Epic Care Everywhere EHR used by MHS.

BHIT Coalition Letter re: Meaningful Use to Senate Finance Committee

The BHIT Coalition responded to a request from Senate Finance Committee Chairman Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and senior member Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), who asked for ideas on how to make greater use of health care data while protecting patient privacy. The Senate Finance Committee has jurisdiction over critical health and human services-related areas including Medicare, Medicaid and the HITECH Act, which includes the Meaningful Use incentive program.

42 CFR Part 2 reform to enable coordinated care for at-risk populations

It is critical that more than 40-year-old 42 CFR Part 2 regulations be updated to permit the sharing of addiction treatment medical records if the patient wishes to do so in integrated care settings like Health Information Exchanges (HIEs), Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs), and Medicaid Health Homes. Current complex patient consent requirements make it difficult or impossible for patients and providers in these care settings to share patient data related to substance use disorders and co-occurring physical and behavioral health conditions with each other as part of "whole person" care. Patient privacy would still be protected, while consent procedures would be streamlined, enabling people to experience the full benefits of coordinated, integrated care.

Other 42 CFR Part 2 Reform Advocacy   

Netsmart Statement and Comments on SAMHSA Proposed Rule on Confidentiality of Substance Use Disorder Patient Records

On February 9, 2016, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) designed to update the consent process for the sharing of health information by consumers with a history of treatment for substance use disorders (SUD).

Netsmart commends SAMHSA for its efforts, but believes the proposed rule needs further modifications to:

  • More accurately and pragmatically reflect the current state of technology in the field
  • Protect the interests of consumers with a history of diagnosis, treatment or referral for SUD who wish to consent to disclose their medical records to their treating providers today using currently available EHR and HIE technology - just like patients with any other illness or chronic disease

Read Netsmart's statement about the proposed rule

Read Netsmart formal comments filed with SAMHSA

Read the proposed rule

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.

View article

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

Legislation in Congress   

Several bills,legBox including the three below, have been introduced in Congress and could potentially impact Meaningful Use eligibility and 42 CFR Part 2 Reform.

H.R. 2646

Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act of 2015

Introduced by Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA) and Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX). Update: the most recent version of this bill does not include provisions for extending Meaningful Use eligibility, but still includes provisions for 42 CFR Part 2 consent reform.

S. 1945

Mental Health Reform Act of 2015

Introduced by Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) and Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-AL). Includes provisions for 42 CFR Part 2 consent reform.

S. 1893

Mental Health Awareness and Improvement Act

Introduced by Senate Health Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA). Requires a Government Accounting Office (GAO) report on the federal requirements impacting access to mental health and substance use disorder treatment related to integration with primary care, administrative and regulatory issues, quality measurement and accountability, and data sharing.

Other Public Policy Advocacy   

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 (H.R. 2515)

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.

This bipartisan bill, introduced by U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL) and U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), would require training for health professionals and school personnel to identify eating disorders in their early stages and to provide intervention.

Full text of H.R. 2515 | The Anna Westin Story (video)

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.

Read FAQs

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