Bill Introduced on Capitol Hill

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) http://whitehouse.senate.gov introduced a bill to support the integration of behavioral healthcare providers into the national health IT infrastructure. Psychologists, community mental health centers, psychiatric hospitals, and others specializing in treating mental health conditions do not currently qualify for Medicare and Medicaid incentives to adopt EHRs. Therefore, there a substantial gap exists in the rates of adoption of health IT between behavioral health providers and other providers that do qualify for federal EHR programs.

The bill “Integrating Behavioral Health Through Technology Act” www.congress.gov would establish a pilot program in five states to provide incentive payments to behavioral health providers that adopt EHRs with priority going to states like Rhode Island that have local health information exchanges.

The pilot program would run for up to five years and be overseen by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA) www.samhsa.gov at HHS. After completion of the pilot, SAMSHA would be required to report to Congress on the results of the program and make recommendations to increase behavioral health providers’ adoption of EHR technology.

“Up-to-date information is just as important to mental health providers as it is throughout our healthcare system. EHRs arm providers with the best information available when treating their patients, and federal incentive programs have helped drive their adoption,” said Whitehouse.

The Senator adds, “This bill would begin to bring behavioral healthcare providers on par with other providers, which could not only improve care but lower costs. It would also bolster local HIEs like Rhode Island’s CurrentCare www.currentcareri.org to help providers with EHRs share information with each other.”

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