2021 Keep the Door Open Update   

MHAMD and the Maryland Behavioral Health Coalition have been working tirelessly over the past few months in support of a robust and ambitious policy agenda to expand access to quality mental health and substance use services.  

With just three weeks left until the Maryland General Assembly adjourns on April 12, here is where things stand for some items identified by the Coalition as 2021 Keep the Door Open priorities. 

Public Behavioral Health System of Care

Emergency legislation authorizing the Maryland Insurance Administration to levy penalties against Optum Maryland for failing to meet minimum performance standards has passed in both the House and Senate. SB 638 | HB 919 is a critical tool in the Coalition’s continuing efforts to address challenges and deficiencies in Optum’s management of the public behavioral health system. Minor differences in the bills will need to be reconciled before final passage.


Both the House and Senate have passed legislation to ensure continued access to vital telehealth services. The bills guarantee access to audio-only telehealth, provide for the delivery of telehealth regardless of where the recipient is located, require that providers are reimbursed for telehealth at the same rate as in-person care, and prohibit insurers from requiring consumers to use telehealth in lieu of an in-person visit. SB 3 includes additional consumer choice language not included in HB 123 that would guarantee commercially insured patients the right to select how a health care service is delivered. The differences will need to be reconciled before final passage. 

Crisis Services

The Senate has passed legislation unanimously to increase and extend funding for Maryland’s Behavioral Health Crisis Response Grant Program. This program is a critical component of Maryland’s crisis response system. In just two years it has helped expand mobile crisis teams in Baltimore City and Caroline, Carroll, Dorchester, Harford, Somerset, Talbot, Washington, and Wicomico Counties. The program is also supporting walk-in crisis services in Baltimore, Carroll, Frederick, and Harford Counties. The bill awaits a vote in the House. 

Other Status Updates 

Today is Crossover Day! It’s just another sign that the 2021 legislative session is drawing to a close. By the end of the day, each chamber must send to the other chamber the bills they intend to pass. Opposite chamber bills received after today are subject to additional hurdles. 

With that in mind, here is the status of some other bills MHAMD has supported this session. Our complete bill list is attached. 

SB 520 | HB 1243 expands data collection related to the availability of behavioral health services for children and youth. New annual reporting requirements will include demographic data to allow for an analysis of racial/ethnic disparities in service availability. This legislation is a priority for the Children’s Behavioral Health Coalition. It has passed unanimously in both the House and the Senate. 

SB 857 | HB 1280 establishes a Center of Excellence tasked with diverting individuals with serious mental health and substance use disorders away from the criminal justice system. Amendments offered by MHAMD will ensure the Center is performing its duties with an eye toward equity. The bill has passed unanimously in both the House and the Senate. 

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

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