House bill

Massachusetts House OKs bill to expand access to mental health

BOSTON (AP) — The Massachusetts House on Thursday approved a bill to expand access to mental health services.

House Democratic leaders said the proposal addresses a variety of pressing needs, including acute psychiatric care, youth behavioral health, strengthening community mental health services and investing in behavioral health workers.

The bill was passed unanimously by the House.

Another key objective of the measure is to extend and enforce existing mental health parity laws, which aim to ensure that insurance coverage for mental health care is equal to coverage for insurance for other medical conditions.

“Our communities across the Commonwealth are facing a behavioral health crisis. These are issues that affect our families, loved ones, neighbors, friends and disproportionately our youth,” said Rep. Adrian Madaro, House Chairman of the Joint Committee on Mental Health, Addiction and Recovery.

“The situation is compounded by continuing disparities in how behavioral health and physical health treatment services are covered,” the Boston Democrat added.

The bill would create online portals for mental health professionals to access data on mental health and addictions services. It also requires launching a public awareness campaign about the state’s red flag laws and extreme risk protection orders that limit access to firearms for those at risk of injury or harm. hurt others.

The legislation would also require licensed mental health professionals to be available during all hours an emergency department is open and require school districts to adopt a behavioral health crisis response plan.

The House debate came after the Massachusetts Senate in November unanimously approved its own bill that would ensure state residents are eligible for annual mental health wellness exams at no cost. – similar to annual physical exams.

Senate bill, which passed 39-0, would also enforce existing mental health parity laws, create an online portal to ease the transition from emergency to long-term care and would dedicate $122 million to support nearly 2,000 behavioral professionals.

House leaders said their bill builds on the Senate proposal.

In March, Republican Gov. Charlie Baker unveiled his own bill that he said would help expand access to primary care and mental health services and control rising health care and drug costs on arrangement.

Baker said his bill would increase investments in behavioral health care services, control factors that drive up health care costs, and improve access to coordinated, high-quality care for people facing life-threatening conditions. multiple health problems.

The House and Senate must propose a single compromise bill to be sent to Baker’s office.

The official session of the legislature ends on July 31.