This is a big week! The Maryland Behavioral Health Coalition will rally in Annapolis, several Coalition priorities are scheduled for committee hearings, and a number of other key policy measures will receive legislative consideration.
Thursday, February 27 at Noon
The Behavioral Health Coalition’s 2020 Legislative Agenda will be front and center this Thursday at noon when hundreds of behavioral health consumers, family members, advocates, providers and more descend on Annapolis to rally for increased access to community mental health and substance use treatment services. Join us and make your voice heard!
Get your friends to come too! Call them, share this post widely or help us promote the rally on social media. And be sure to follow and repost content from the Keep the Door Open Twitter and Facebook accounts.
Priority Bill Hearings
Not only will we rally in support of the full Coalition platform, we will also testify at hearings for the following priority initiatives:
► Restoration of $25 million in Behavioral Health Budget Cuts
The proposed Fiscal Year 2021 budget does not fund community behavioral health services to the extent required by either the minimum wage bill of 2019 or the bipartisan HOPE Act of 2017.
While the budget does include a 2% increase in funding for community behavioral health services, it falls far short of the 4% increase required by law, underfunding mental health and substance use treatment by nearly $25 million.
A Senate committee will consider these cuts on Wednesday, and the House Appropriations Committee will hold a hearing at 1:00 p.m. on Thursday … immediately following the rally!
If you can, please plan to stick around for a bit after the rally to show legislators how important this funding is for Marylanders living with mental health and substance use disorders.
► Payment Protection for Out-of-Network Care
At 1:00 p.m. on Wednesday, the Senate Finance Committee will consider legislation that will ensure Marylanders don’t pay more when forced to go out-of-network for behavioral health care.
According to a 2019 national study, Marylanders are 10 times more likely to go out-of-network for behavioral health care compared to primary care – a rate that is 4th worst in the nation. This limits access and results in higher out-of-pockets costs that can make treatment unaffordable, even for people with insurance.
SB 484 will require insurers to cover out-of-network mental health and substance use services at a cost no greater than in-network services.
► Overdose Prevention Services
Overdose deaths increased in 2018 for the eighth year in a row, reaching an all-time high of 2,406. A total of 1,774 Marylanders lost their lives to overdose during the first nine months of 2019. This is a public health crisis that cries out for new solutions.
The Health and Government Operations Committee will hold a hearing Friday for HB 464, which will allow community-based organizations to establish overdose and infectious disease prevention programs. This innovative model is a proven intervention used across the globe to decrease overdose deaths.
These programs serve as an access point to behavioral health care and other social services, helping people reduce their use of drugs and reducing opioid- and overdose-related deaths, hospital admissions and associated costs.
Other Important Bill Hearings
The Coalition priorities listed above aren’t the only critical policy issues being addressed in the coming days. These are a few more of the activities the MHAMD public policy team is focused on this week. Our complete bill list is attached.
HB 742 MHAMD supports this bill to limit the use of solitary confinement in correctional facilities, particularly as it relates to inmates with serious mental illness [House Judiciary Committee – 1:00 p.m. – Tuesday, February 25]
HB 1121 MHAMD supports this bill requiring development of a statewide system through which health care providers can locate and access available behavioral health services [House Health and Government Operations Committee – 1:00 p.m. – Wednesday, February 26]
Further information about the material above is available on the
Maryland General Assembly website.