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Posted by (name unknown) on Apr 8th, 2014 10:55am

An impressive collection of healthcare stakeholders have joined with MHA in calling for the state to support two extremely important reform efforts in the upcoming FY 2015 budget.

First, policymakers should address desperately needed behavioral health reform measures.

Five of Massachusetts' largest care provider organizations are jointly calling on the Legislature to support vital behavioral health reform measures in next year's budget. In addition to MHA, the Massachusetts Association of Behavioral Health Systems, Massachusetts Medical Society, Massachusetts College of Emergency Physicians and the Massachusetts Psychiatric Society are urging the adoption of both budgetary action and vital administrative steps needed to bolster timely access to behavioral health care services.

The commonwealth's behavioral health system is broken, and immediate supports are needed to reinforce critical mental health and substance abuse services while we all work toward comprehensive, systemic reform. The multi-step plan advanced by our collective organizations' calls for important investments in community-based placement services, outpatient and community-based diversionary services, and inpatient hospital level services. It also urges the legislature to adopt operational reforms that advance patient access to appropriate services on a timely basis and reduce emergency department delays.

The House version of the budget is expected later this week. To that end, the persistent call for comprehensive reform of the commonwealth's behavioral health system from this broad coalition of healthcare providers, along with many others, is gaining traction throughout the state. In recent weeks, several Democratic gubernatorial candidates and Massachusetts House Speaker Robert DeLeo (D-Winthrop) have all expressed public support for addressing the serious challenges that are currently impeding timely access to behavioral healthcare in Massachusetts.

While thorough and systemic reform may take some time, it's essential that policymakers move forward on some immediate interim steps that will preserve access and advance true parity for behavioral health coverage and services. We hope this growing call from healthcare, public advocacy and civic leaders will result in meaningful improvements for all patients in the very near future.

Second, new federal healthcare funding should be dedicated to its intended purpose – to support both low-income health coverage programs and those who provide the care.

Hospitals, home care providers, physicians, community health centers, advocates for patients and organizations devoted to fighting major diseases are all calling on the state to ensure that the use of federal healthcare funding coming to Massachusetts through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is set aside to support the funding of Medicaid and other low-income healthcare programs in a transparent manner. Governor Patrick's budget created the "Health Insurance Expansion Fund" to house the enhanced federal Medicaid revenues the state receives and dedicate the funding to "support the financing of health insurance coverage for low-income residents." 

This approach is supported by MHA, Health Care For All; Health Law Advocates; Home Care Alliance of Massachusetts;  Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers;  Massachusetts Association of Behavioral Health Systems;  Massachusetts Law Reform Institute;  American Heart/American Stroke Association;  Massachusetts Medical Society; Massachusetts Health Council; American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network; and Conference of Boston Teaching Hospitals.

This coalition has urged the legislature to carry the Governor's recommendation forward while adding language that increases transparency - so that the amount of revenues in the fund, as well as expected additions and expenditures, are reported regularly – and that explicitly authorizes one of the uses for the funding to be to support those who provide care to Medicaid patients. 

This federal money was intended to shore up and support the important healthcare programs that have been developed under the state's reform effort. By connecting the funding directly to these important programs, the legislature can create true transparency and accountability and help preserve the many collective successes we have achieved since the passage of the first reform efforts back in 2006.

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