On Thursday September 29, 2021, the Bipartisan Addiction and Mental Health Task Force released their 2021 legislative agenda . The agenda consists of almost 70 different pieces of legislation that attack almost all the different elements in addiction and mental health. As a country that has been divided in recent years, it is remarkable to see a truly bipartisan legislative package. This legislative package includes The Mental Health Access Improvement Act (H.R. 432) which would make marriage and family therapists and mental health counselors’ eligible providers in Medicare. Having bipartisan backing and the legislation being included in the Bipartisan Addiction and Mental Health Task Force legislative agenda gives our bill a strong possibility to make it through the House of Representatives.
Lawmakers must understand that for us to assimilate back to a world post COVID-19 we must come together to tackle the problem that is the drastically increasing number of people who need mental health and substance use services. Many states have started to use some of the money from the mammoth American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 for behavioral health services. Colorado, for example, is using $550 million on behavioral health services, and at least seven other states (Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Ohio, Virginia, Vermont and Washington) are joining them. It is crucial that these states understand that this is one time payment and figuring out how to use the money correctly will be their biggest hurdle. State leaders will have to find other ways to fund any programs, services or staffing increases they spend federal dollars on after 2026.
That is why it is crucial for us to make sure our voices are heard. Recently, AAMFT, in collaboration with its coalition allies in the Medicare Mental Health Workforce Coalition, hosted a virtual hill day to let lawmakers in congress know the importance of H.R. 432 and S. 828. While this event has passed, it is not too late to call your Representative and Senators and ask them for their support. We also encourage you to participate in the upcoming National Council Hill Day as a way to advocate. AAMFT participates as a partner in this event, which is the largest behavioral healthcare Capitol Hill event of the year. As Diana Hardy said in her book Return Of The Wolf “It only takes one voice, at the right pitch, to start an avalanche.”