This is the first full week of the 2021 Maryland General Assembly session and the legislature is already in full swing. In an effort to mitigate spread of the coronavirus, lawmakers are not meeting for full floor sessions. Instead, they are using their time to focus on bill hearings and committee work.

2021 Keep the Door Open Update

Hearings are being scheduled now on a number of bills that address priority areas outlined in the Maryland Behavioral Health Coalition’s 2021 Keep the Door Open Agenda, including:

Health Equity
Racial and ethnic minorities have less access to behavioral health services than white people, are less likely to receive needed care, and are more likely to receive poor-quality care when they are treated. Communities of color, working class residents, and individuals with disabilities are more likely to experience poor health outcomes as a consequence of their social determinants of health. The Coalition is working to address these disparities by supporting a variety of legislative initiatives that aim to improve health equity across Maryland.

Increased flexibility around the delivery of telehealth has enabled Marylanders to access behavioral health treatment from their homes and on their phones. It has protected providers and consumers from exposure to the coronavirus, ensured continuity of care for individuals with mental health and substance use disorders, and expanded overall access to treatment. The service expansion has become a vital part of Maryland’s continuum of care, and the Coalition is supporting multiple bills to preserve these enhancements.

Overdose and Suicide Prevention
Maryland has battled a persistent opioid crisis and rising suicide rates since well before COVID-19, but pandemic-related stress, grief and despair are exacerbating these concerns. According to the CDC, over 1 in 10 individuals nationally has seriously considered suicide in the previous 30 days – including over 25% of those aged 18-24 – and over 13% have started or increased their substance use to cope with stress from the pandemic. Accordingly, the Coalition is working this session to expand overdose and suicide prevention efforts.

Watch for more specific information and updates as bill hearings approach.

Of Note This Week

The Coalition priorities listed above aren’t the only important policy issues being addressed in Annapolis. MHAMD will watch closely on Wednesday when Governor Hogan introduces his Fiscal Year 2022 budget, and we will provide testimony this week on several key bills as outlined below. Our complete bill list is attached.

HB 119 MHAMD supports this bill requiring the Maryland Department of Health to include information in its public health outreach programs about cognitive impairment, Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia [Tuesday, January 19 – House Health and Government Operations Committee]

SB 161 | HB 244 MHAMD supports this bill establishing a task force to study and make recommendations on a range of issues related to the availability of mental health services at institutions of higher education. [Wednesday, January 20 – Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee | House Appropriations Committee]

Further information about the material above is available on the
Maryland General Assembly website.

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