With just over four weeks left until the Maryland General Assembly adjourns at midnight on April 6, MHAMD and the Maryland Behavioral Health Coalition are working overtime to ensure positive legislative and budgetary action to address the priorities outlined in the 2020 Keep the Door Open Agenda.

Time is short, but we’ve got momentum on our side!

Keep the Door Open Updates

► Fully Fund Prior Keep the Door Open Budget Commitments

A top priority this session for the Maryland Behavioral Health Coalition is restoring nearly $25 MILLION in budget cuts to community mental health and substance use treatment services. We are pleased to report there was positive movement last week when the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee voted to reject the cut!

The House will begin considering the budget this week, with an initial subcommittee vote scheduled on Wednesday.

► Enforce Behavioral Health Parity

Another main focus this session is encouraging the Maryland General Assembly to take action that will (1) ensure the appropriate enforcement of federal and state parity laws and (2) guarantee consumers don’t pay extra when forced to go out of network for mental health or substance use treatment.

SB 334/HB 455 was introduced to require insurers to submit annual parity compliance reports. Behavioral Health Coalition representatives have participated throughout session in negotiations with legislators, insurers and the Maryland Insurance Administration. These negotiations have resulted in significant amendments, which a House subcommittee voted to adopt last week. Many of these are compromise amendments agreed to by all parties. However, there is some concern that the amended bill includes language that could threaten its overall effectiveness. MHAMD and the Coalition are working to address these issues ahead of an important subcommittee vote this afternoon.

SB 484/HB 1165 was introduced to ensure consumers are held financially harmless when their insurer’s provider network is inadequate. These bills have been heard in both the House and the Senate and await votes in their respective committees.

► Increase School Behavioral Health Supports

On Friday, the House passed HB 1300, known officially as the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future. The bill would implement recommendations from the (Kirwan) Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education, and it includes nearly every strategy offered by the Children’s Behavioral Health Coalition for enhancing school-based behavioral health services. The Senate will consider the legislation over the coming days.

► Expand Access to Crisis Response Services, Overdose and Suicide Prevention Efforts

SB 441/HB 332 was introduced to allow the Maryland Department of Health to include behavioral health crisis response centers on its list of designated emergency facilities that can accept individuals for an emergency mental health evaluation. Currently, that list includes only hospital emergency departments, which are rarely the most appropriate place to deescalate a behavioral health crisis. Coalition representatives have been working with the House sponsor and the Department on amendments to ensure facilities have the right protocols and safeguards in place prior to being designated as an emergency facility.

SB 305/HB 607 establishes a Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) Center of Excellence to assist local jurisdictions in developing, evaluating and improving CIT programs across Maryland. CIT is a law enforcement-led, team-based intervention to divert individuals experiencing a mental health or substance use crisis away from the criminal justice system and into treatment. The Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee gave the bill a favorable vote last Friday.

SB 990/HB 464 will allow community-based organizations to establish overdose and infectious disease prevention programs. The model is a proven intervention used around the world to reduce overdose deaths. These programs serve as an access point to behavioral health care and other social services, they help people reduce their use of drugs, and they have been shown to decrease overdose-related hospital admissions and associated costs. A hearing on SB 990 is scheduled tomorrow in the Senate Finance Committee.

SB 849/HB 738 would modify Maryland’s Good Samaritan law to expand legal protections for individuals who seek medical assistance for a person experiencing an emergency after ingesting alcohol or drugs. These bills have been heard in both the House and the Senate and await votes in their respective committees.

Other Status Updates

The Behavioral Health Coalition priorities detailed above are not the only issues MHAMD has been focused on this session. Our public policy team has testified on dozens of bills that would impact Marylanders living with mental health and substance use disorders. Here is the current status of several measures we have supported. Our complete bill list is attached.

SB 207 provides that unaccompanied minors may consent to shelter and support services in certain situations. The bill passed the Senate unanimously and awaits a vote in the House Health and Government Operations Committee.

HB 456 requires the Maryland Department of Health to include information about Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia in its public outreach materials. The bill passed the House unanimously and awaits a hearing in the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee.

HB 286 requires that stakeholders convened by the Maternal Mortality Review Program reflect the racial and ethnic diversity of women most impacted by maternal deaths in the state. The bill passed the House unanimously and awaits a hearing in the Senate Finance Committee.


Download our current bill list here.


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

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