2014 was a very important year in the field of behavioral health care. In January, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was implemented, giving all Americans access to affordable health insurance options. The ACA expanded access to mental health services for 62 million Americans who were unable to access these important services before, making it the most monumental legislation involving behavioral health care since John F. Kennedy signed the Community Mental Health Act in 1963. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) received a $144 million increase in federal funding, which meant more support for Primary Behavioral Heath Care Integration (PBHCI) and evidence based programs, among other things. In April 2014, President Barack Obama signed The Excellence in Mental Health Act into law. This legislation will establish pilot Certified Community Behavioral Health Center (CCBHC) programs in eight states and will increase access to community mental health and will create models for the standard of care at behavioral health centers across the nation. And, in July, the final rules for The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 (MHPAEA) were implemented. The law now requires “group health plans and health insurance issuers to ensure that financial requirements (such as co-pays, deductibles) and treatment limitations (such as visit limits) applicable to mental health or substance use disorder (MH/SUD) benefits are no more restrictive than the predominant requirements or limitations applied to substantially all medical/surgical benefits1.” This final ruling demonstrates that our federal government views behavioral health care services as an essential health benefit.
Earlier this week, our CEO, John Mayes and members of our leadership team—along with more than 600 behavioral healthcare providers and advocates from across the country—stood on the steps of the U.S. Capitol Building advocating for increased funding and better access to mental health services as part of the National Council For Behavioral Health’s Hill Day 2013. While in Washington, our team discussed the importance of the Excellence in Mental Health Act with representatives from the offices of Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), U.S. Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL), U.S. Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Congressman Mike Quigley (D-IL).