Mental health advocates continue to push for ARRA expansion

Mental health advocates continue to press for psychologists, licensed clinical social workers, substance abuse professionals, psychiatric hospitals and related providers to be included in the federal EMR incentive program.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act "inadvertently restricts mental health practitioners from using most of the incentives that help healthcare providers and hospitals establish a nationwide health information technology (HIT) system," according to the National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare, NextGov reports. The group is pushing lawmakers to pass the Health IT Extension for Behavioral Health Services Act (H.R. 5040), a bill introduced by Reps. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.) and Tim Murphy (R.-Pa.), that would expand eligibility for Medicare and Medicaid bonuses for EMR usage. Murphy himself is a child psychologist and co-chair of both the 21st Century Healthcare Caucus and Mental Health Caucus in Congress.

"People with mental health and substance use conditions are in desperate need of more coordinated, integrated healthcare," Linda Rosenberg, president and CEO of the National Council, told NextGov. "Having an interoperable system of electronic health information is critical to achieving greater coordination among addiction, mental health, and other healthcare providers, and to helping consumers manage their own care."

For more information:
- see this NextGov story
- read the text of the bill being considered