News & Views | December 2022

Thursday, December 01, 2022 6:16 PM | Anonymous

Judy Gallant, Chair, MD Legislation and Advocacy Committee

Although the Maryland General Assembly doesn’t start it’s legislative session until January 11, 2023, we have collaborated with the MD Behavioral Health Coalition to support and prioritize Equal Treatment Maryland, as well as the 2023 Behavioral Health Crisis Prevention Platform. Currently, two-thirds of Maryland’s counties qualify as federally designated mental health professional shortage areas. Commercial health insurance companies in Maryland reimburse behavioral health providers nearly 20% less than other doctors for similar procedures, Maryland ranked 7th worst in the nation last year for opioid death rates, and MD has seen a 46% increase in children accessing hospital ERs for suicide attempts.

The 2023 Behavioral Health Crisis Prevention Platform emphasizes the great increase in the need for community mental health and substance use care and asks that the MD Department of Health be required to develop and advance a plan to expand the state’s network of Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics in order to help keep people out of crisis. In addition, a sufficient provider workforce must exist to accomplish accessibility to services. Through supporting Equal Treatment Maryland and the Behavioral Health Coalition, we are also requesting that a Behavioral Health Workforce Investment Fund be established. A behavioral health workforce assessment is required to figure out the best usage for such a fund. Sixteen counties are designated mental health professional shortage areas, and less than 20% of individuals in these areas get their mental health needs met. Additionally, staff vacancies exist in over 80% of Maryland’s child-serving community behavioral health programs.

During our last legislative session, we supported passage of the Behavioral Health System Modernization Act which would have expanded comprehensive treatment by expanding Maryland’s network of Community Behavioral Health Clinics. Care for children and youth would have improved by increasing the availability of home- and community-based wraparound services. It also sought to reduce reliance on law enforcement and ERs by ensuring stable reimbursement for Maryland’s network of crisis call centers, mobile crisis teams and crisis stabilization facilities. It is not uncommon for vitally important changes to our behavioral health system such as these take years to become law. Our support this year of Equal Treatment Maryland continues what was begun in previous years.

Within the past couple of weeks, we joined with other organizations to advocate that the Hogan administration take action on two specific issues. As part of the MD Behavioral Health Coalition, we asked that Governor Hogan direct his health department to apply for a federal planning grant to sustain and expand Maryland’s network of Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics. We explained: “Passage of the federal Bipartisan Safer Communities Act has made available $40 million for planning grants and technical assistance to states interested in implementing Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics (CCBHCs). The legislation also includes four years of enhanced Medicaid match for CCBHC services. These planning grants were released late last month, and applications are due in December.” We received the response that Maryland Medicaid decided not to apply in this cycle for the $1 million CCBHC planning grant. Given this, a legislative proposal is being developed to expand Maryland’s network of CCBHCs.

Another letter was sent to the current Secretary of the Department of Health, Dennis Shrader, requesting that a Request for Proposals for the behavioral health Administrative Service Organization contract be issued before the end of 2022. The current contract ends in 2024, and in order to avoid the horrible mismanagement of the current contractor, Optum, in processing Medicaid claims in Maryland, “the next vendor must have adequate time to ensure that all systems are operational.” We joined forces with MedChi, the Mid-Atlantic Association for Community Health Centers, the MD Chapter of the American College of Emergency Physicians, and NASW-MD.

Late-breaking news: the Interstate Social Work Compact is scheduled to be released to states by the Council of State Governments at the beginning of January, 2023! This makes it possible that legislatures will be able to pass the Compact into becoming law in their State during the 2023 Legislative Session. Remember that seven states must pass the Compact into law before an administrative body can be formed to create a functioning compact between those states. In the near future, we will share ways you could become involved through contacting your state representatives and asking for their support on this exciting possibility.
PO Box 711 | Garrisonville, VA  22463 | 202-478-7638 |

Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software