Things are moving right along in Annapolis! The legislature is taking action on a variety of measures that address the priority areas outlined in the Maryland Behavioral Health Coalition’s 2021 Keep the Door Open Agenda.
Public Behavioral Health System of Care
In January 2020, the Maryland Department of Health transitioned administrative management of the public behavioral health system to a new vendor – Optum Maryland. Optum’s IT system failed immediately and over a year of chaos and uncertainty have followed. The situation has been incredibly destabilizing for providers, and it threatens access to behavioral health care at a time of skyrocketing demand.
SB 638 is emergency legislation requiring the state to enforce minimum performance standards for Optum. It will help ensure the stability of Maryland’s behavioral health provider network. The bill passed unanimously out of the Senate Finance Committee. The full Senate will vote this week.
Expanded use of telehealth has been a critical component in Maryland’s effort to mitigate spread of the coronavirus. Increased flexibility in the delivery of these services has protected behavioral health providers and patients from exposure to the virus, ensured continuity of care for Marylanders unable to access in-person services, and increased overall access to treatment. The service expansion has become a vital part of Maryland’s continuum of care.
SB 3 will ensure continued access to these services. As amended, the bill guarantees access to audio-only telehealth, provides for the delivery of telehealth regardless of where the recipient is located, reimburses providers for telehealth at the same rate as in-person care, and protects consumer choice by ensuring that a patient may not be required to use telehealth in lieu of an in-person visit. The bill passed unanimously out of the Senate Finance Committee. The full Senate will vote this week.
Black and Brown individuals 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. For these reasons, MHAMD and the Behavioral Health Coalition have supported several initiatives this session designed to improve health equity across Maryland.
SB 52 establishes the Maryland Commission on Health Equity. The Commission will examine the impact of various social determinants of health on Maryland residents and provide recommendations to reduce health disparities. The bill has passed the full Senate and awaits a vote in the House.
Hearings This Week
These are some of the hearings MHAMD is focused on this week. Our complete bill list is attached.
SB 815 | MHAMD supports this bill expanding reporting requirements related to sexual abuse and harassment at state facilities.
HB 396 | MHAMD supports this bill providing for the establishment of six overdose prevention sites throughout Maryland.
SB 857 | MHAMD supports this bill establishing a Center of Excellence to divert individuals with serious mental health and substance use disorders away from the criminal justice system.
Further information about the material above is available on the Maryland General Assembly website.