Wanted: Mental Health IT Parity
It was 2008 when legislation to create parity between behavioral/mental health services and all other health services was signed into law. In 2009 the HITECT Act was signed, setting in motion all of the information technology changes necessary to support a health care system in sync with the digital age. One should have guessed, however that IT advances in behavioral/mental health would not keep pace with those made in the other medical disciplines. While facilities can receive incentive payments for the adoption of health information technology for the psychiatrists and nurse practitioners on staff, for most facilities the provider mix is far more complex including social workers (both at the MSW/CSW and doctorate level) as well as clinical psychologists (both PhD or PsyD) and they are as integral to care delivery as the MDs and NPs.
The Behavioral Health Information Technology Act (H.R. 2957) will add community mental health centers, psychiatric hospitals, residential and outpatient mental health treatment facilities, and substance abuse treatment facilities to the list of organizations eligible for “facility payments” (up to $1 million per year for 6 years). Funds that can be used to support the adoption, implementation, or upgrading of a certified EMRs/EHRs. The legislation also adds licensed psychologists as eligible professionals. When you consider the fact that one out of ever 5 individuals will suffer from depression at some point in their lives and people
suffering carrying a DSM IV diagnosis in addition to other chronic conditions suffer greater disability and poor health outcomes, slighting behavioral/mental services in the building of robust health IT systems is a recipe for system failure. Health IT after all is the foundation for high-quality coordinated care. September 16-17, 2013 is the annual legislative conference, Hill Day for the National Council for Behavioral Health (a blanket organization for several advocacy organizations focused on mental illness & mental health) and among the 5 pieces of legislation in their package of “ASKs” this is the one for which I posses the greatest conviction. The current cosponsors are original bill sponsor Tim Murphy (PA) and Representatives: Ron Barber (AZ); Marsha Blackburn (TN); Larry Bucshon (IN); Michael Burgess (TX); Bill Cassidy (LA); Charlie Dent (PA); Brett Guthrie (KY); Tom Marino (PA); Phil Roe (TN); and Patrick Tiberi (OH).
As Hill Day comes to an end, the Congress manages (hopefully) to pass a budget, I’ll be watching to learn the fate of this legislation, HR 2957. Join me in letting your legislators know you support this bill. Use this quick tool to let them know.