HIT stimulus apparently leaves out mental health

According to the National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare, both the House and Senate versions of the economic stimulus bill exclude mental health providers from the $20 billion in funding for health IT.

“The National Council is deeply concerned about the lack of direct support for persons with addiction disorders and mental illnesses in the stimulus bill, formally known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. In particular, the economic recovery measure contains no new federal investments for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). In fact, it appears that SAMHSA is the only operating division within the United States Public Health Service that did not receive emergency funding in either the House or Senate version of the stimulus legislation,” National Council President and CEO Linda Rosenberg, MSW, says in a statement e-mailed to reporters today.

“Also, while privacy protections in the Health Information Technology (HIT) for Rconomic and Clinical Health Act have wide support in the addictions and mental health communities, we were dismayed to learn that the vast majority of our nation’s residential, community-based and individual providers of addiction and mental health services are not eligible to receive Medicaid and Medicare financing or direct grant support under this new HIT initiative. Without the additional resources included in the bill, the goal of community behavioral health organizations to help people with mental illnesses and addiction disorders recover and lead productive lives will be compromised. The community organizations will face many barriers to receiving the Medicare and Medicaid incentive payments for the adoption of HIT technology and will likely be excluded from the grant/loan programs, infrastructure funding, and other HIT provisions of the bill,” Rosenberg continues.

“Let us be clear: parity does not stop at private health insurance coverage. Mental health and addiction providers, both those that receive SAMHSA funding and those that do not, are as much a part of America’s healthcare safety net as physicians and hospitals. Indeed, we confront the same economic conditions including a significant spike in average caseloads combined with successive rounds of state budget cuts.

“The National Council urges Congress to include community behavioral health organizations as eligible entities in the economic recovery bill.”