Bills to Improve Behavioral Health

Representative Ben Ray Lujan from New Mexico has introduced two bills aimed at rebuilding and strengthening behavioral health systems in his state and across the country.

“The legislation hopefully will help at a time when New Mexico’s behavioral health system has been thrown into a crisis mode. This occurred following the unwarranted suspension of payments to 15 providers resulting in patients losing access to care, state residents losing their jobs, and millions of taxpayer dollars wasted,” reports Representative Lujan

The bills provide incentives for states to prioritize improvement and investments in their behavioral health system through matching Federal funds and supports efforts to fill the gaps in the behavioral healthcare workforce.

According to Representative Lujan, “This legislative package provides the support to encourage states to make mental health a priority and invest in the resources needed to meet the demand for mental health services.

The first bill called the “Behavioral Health Infrastructure Improvement Act” would provide for an enhanced Federal Medicaid match for states that invest in and improve their behavioral health infrastructure, data, and improve care to Medicaid patients.

The bill also provides grants for states to create an Office of Behavioral Health Assistance or to hire behavioral health ombudsmen. The funding would allow states to collect data, track usage, and quantify problems encountered by Medicaid patients seeking behavioral health treatment. In addition, the ombudsmen would provide information, referral care coordination, and provide assistance to patients and providers.

The second bill “The Peer Support Specialist Act” addresses the shortage of mental health professionals in the U.S by creating a grant program through SAMHSA to develop and sustain behavioral health paraprofessional training and education programs plus provide tuition support.

Peer Support Specialists are individuals who have received mental health treatment themselves and have undergone extensive training to be able to support others through their treatment.

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