Legislative Update: HR 3717

HR 3717

HR 3717, sponsored by Representative Tim Murphy (R-PA), was drafted in response to recent high-profile mass shootings. The legislation has been slowly working its way through congress, and has some provisions worth monitoring[i].

Known as the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act of 2013, this legislation creates in the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) an Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders, who shall supervise and direct the Administrator of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

This new Assistant Secretary is directed to establish a National Mental Health Policy Laboratory to drive evidence-based practices and service delivery models. It also directs the Assistant Secretary to establish a program of tele-psychiatry and primary care physician training grants to states to promote the use of qualified telehealth technology for the identification, diagnosis, and treatment of a mental health disorder. This is funded through grants only, not Medicare/Medicaid funding.

HIPAA is modified in the legislation so that the caregiver of an individual with a serious mental illness is considered the individual’s personal representative with respect to protected health information, even if the individual has not consented to disclosure of such information to the caregiver. This provision is based on whether the individual’s care provider reasonably believes providing protected information is necessary protect the individual’s health, safety, or welfare or the safety of others.

There is a focus on integrating FQHC standards into behavioral health. The legislation directs the HHS Secretary, in coordination with the Assistant Secretary, to award planning grants to enable up to 10 states to carry out 5-year demonstration programs. The goal is to improve the provision of behavioral health services by federally qualified community behavioral health clinics.

High risk groups

The bill attempts to address the issue of mental health and corrections by authorizing the Attorney General to award grants to establish or expand veterans treatment court programs and enhance the capabilities of a correctional facility to identify, screen, and treat inmates with a mental illness. Also included is a provision to develop and implement post-release transition plans.

The legislation directs the Secretary of Education, along with the Assistant Secretary, to organize a national awareness campaign to assist students in reducing the stigma associated with serious mental illness, while increasing understanding how to assist an individual demonstrating signs of a serious mental illness. A key component is awareness of the importance of seeking treatment from a physician, clinical psychologist, or licensed mental health professional.

It also requires the Assistant Secretary, before making a grant to a public entity for comprehensive community mental health services to children with a serious emotional disturbance, to consult with the Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to ensure that the grant recipient will use evidence-based practices.

Reimbursement changes

The law would change Medicaid provisions to prevent a state medical assistance plan from prohibiting payment for a same-day qualifying mental health service or primary care service furnished to an individual at a federally qualified community behavioral health center or a federally qualified health center on the same day as the other kind of service. It also requires Medicare to cover prescription drugs used to treat mental health disorders.

It dictates that Medicaid treat, as Medicaid providers, public and certain private hospitals that are principally psychiatric hospitals, certain community mental health centers, and certain residential or outpatient mental health or substance abuse treatment facilities. The legislation makes eligible Medicaid professionals that include certain clinical psychologists providing qualified psychologist services and also includes certain clinical social workers.

As this law proceeds through the legislative process, there are bound to be more changes and evolutions of policy. If there a substantive, significant changes to HR 3717, be sure to look for an update from us as the law progresses.


[i] The information presented here contains highlights of certain provisions that we feel will be of interest to behavioral health organizations. To review the full text of HR3717, visit https://www.congress.gov/bill/113th-congress/house-bill/3717.

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