Coalition for Whole Health Releases Recommendations to Protect and Strengthen Access to Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Care

As Policymakers Consider Recently Released ACA “Repeal and Replace” Legislation,  Recommendations Uphold Bipartisan Commitment to Respond to Heroin and Opioid Epidemic

Media Contact: Abigail Woodworth
Email: [email protected]
Phone: 212-243-1313

March 8, 2017, Washington DC – The Coalition for Whole Health, which includes the leading national organizations advocating for policies to increase access to quality mental health and substance use care, today released comprehensive recommendations to protect and strengthen access to these critical services.  As policymakers evaluate legislation released by Republican members of Congress to modify the Affordable Care Act, the Coalition recommendations provide a useful framework for maintaining broad bipartisan support for policies to address mental health and substance use disorders.

“The heroin and opioid epidemic has created an enormous public health emergency,” said Paul Samuels, co-chair of the Coalition and Director/President of Legal Action Center.  “But it has also galvanized a strong, bipartisan commitment to expand and improve our nation’s health responses to mental health and substance use disorders.  The Coalition’s recommendations provide a blueprint for our nation’s leaders to translate that commitment into policy.”

“Over the past decade, Congress has established a new framework that, for the first time in our nation’s history, addresses mental health and substance use disorders on par with physical illnesses,” said Ron Manderscheid, Coalition co-chair and Executive Director of the National Association of County Behavioral Health and Developmental Disability Directors and the National Association for Rural Mental Health.  “The Coalition for Whole Health stands ready to work with members of Congress and the Administration to preserve the important progress made in recent years, as well as to expand the effort to ensure lifesaving treatments, services and medications are available to all of those in need.  Effective MH and SUD policies services not only save countless lives, they also save hundreds of billions of dollars in health care, public safety, workforce productivity and other social and economic costs.”

The Coalition for Whole Health, which brings together leading national organizations from the mental health and substance use disorder fields, urges policymakers to ensure that our nation’s system of health care and coverage include the following elements:

  • Coverage for the full continuum of benefits for mental health and substance use disorders at parity with other health care benefits. Federal health policy should maintain current legal requirements that the full range of MH and SUD services and medications are covered at parity with other health benefits in all public and private insurance coverage.
  • Expanded Medicaid coverage and mechanisms that make private insurance coverage more affordable for and accessible to people with or at risk for MH and SUD. Approximately 29 percent of persons who receive health insurance coverage through the Medicaid expansion either have a MH and/or a SUD.[1] Continued Medicaid eligibility and access to MH and SUD care is key to improving health outcomes for these people.  Premium and cost-sharing assistance for private insurance coverage should be maintained so that people can afford to remain insured and can access quality MH and SUD services.
  • Maintenance of the current structure of the Medicaid program, a critically important safety net program for adults and children with SUD and MH care needs. Medicaid should be maintained as an entitlement program that continues to effectively support the prevention, treatment and recovery support needs of people with complex health conditions, including those with MH and SUD.
  • Continued requirements for insurers to have adequate networks of MH and SUD care providers. Health plans should continue to be required to maintain a sufficient network of MH and SUD care providers to guarantee enrollees’ timely access to the full continuum of MH and SUD services.
  • Maintain protections for people with pre-existing conditions. People with complex health conditions, including those with MH and SUD, should continue to be able to purchase coverage at a fair price.

The full recommendations and list of supporting organizations can be found here.

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Established in 2010, the Coalition for Whole Health brings together more than 165 leading national organizations to advocate for policies to increase access to quality mental health and substance use care. It includes representatives of major treatment providers, medical associations, city and state agencies, law enforcement groups, and policy/advocacy organizations. The Coalition was instrumental in helping to win mental health and addiction service parity provisions in the Affordable Care Act, and in guiding the implementation of the Federal Parity Law.

[1] The CBHQS Report, SAMHSA National Survey on Drug Use and Health, November 18, 2015

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