On September 19, ICL’s President and CEO David Woodlock and Constance Brown, VP of Community and Government Relations, were among 600 passionate behavioral health professionals to attend Hill Day, hosted annually in Washington, D.C by the National Council for Behavioral Health. Hill Day is the largest behavioral health advocacy event of the year, with a record-breaking number of advocates in attendance and extensive political and social media coverage on outlets such as Politico and The Hill.

The purpose of Hill Day is to meet with senators and representatives on Capital Hill to discuss legislation that will improve the lives of people living with mental illness and addiction. These include:

•    Excellence in Mental Health Act (S. 264 / H.R. 1263)
This bipartisan legislation will enhance the Medicaid funding for community behavioral health organizations that meet an advanced standard of care and offer a high quality, comprehensive range of evidence-based interventions. The Excellence Act would help up to 750,000 uninsured and low income Americans with the most serious and persistent mental health conditions. 

Since Hill Day, The Excellence Act has gained four new co-sponsors.

•    Mental Health First Aid Act (S.153 / H.R. 274)
This legislation authorizes $20 million in grants to fund Mental Health First Aid Training programs around the country to ensure citizens can recognize common symptoms of mental illness and addiction, safely de-escalate crisis situations, and initiate timely referrals to community mental health and addiction treatment resources.

•    Behavioral Health Information Technology Act (S. 1517 / H.R. 2957)
Known as the Behavioral IT Act, this legislation would make federal incentive payments through Medicare and Medicaid available to mental health and addiction treatment facilities, behavioral health professionals, and community providers for the adoption and implementation of electronic health records (EHR).This legislation corrects an oversight in the 2009 HITECH Act that left out behavioral health providers in the list of entitles eligible to receive these incentives. 

Considering that less than 30% of mental health and addiction providers have been able to implement full or partial EHRs due to financial challenges, this legislation will support care coordination among all areas of the healthcare system and strengthen providers’ ability to deliver integrated care for people with the most serious mental illnesses and addictions. 

This is the third time the legislation has been introduced in Congress, and has the support of a broad coalition of national behavioral health and information technology groups.

Since Hill Day, the Behavioral IT Act has welcomed six new co-sponsors.