Massachusetts Senate approves sweeping mental health bill


“This investment is very, very important. It is a game changer.”

AP Photo / Elise Amendola

BOSTON (AFP) – The Massachusetts Senate on Wednesday unanimously approved a bill that would ensure Massachusetts residents are eligible for annual mental health tests at no cost — similar to annual physical exams.

The sweeping bill, passed by a 39-0 vote, would also create an online portal to help ease the transition from emergency care to long-term care; Create a committee to help resolve barriers to care for children with complex behavioral health needs who find themselves in the emergency room; and $122 million to support nearly 2,000 behavior professionals.

It includes the retention and hiring we need to get the workforce we need, where we need it,” Democratic Senator Julian Sayer said during the discussion.

The legislation enforces existing mental health parity laws, which are intended to ensure that insurance coverage for mental health care is equal to insurance coverage for other medical conditions.

Sir said the goal of the bill is to create a more functional and transformative mental health care system.

“This legislation builds stronger mental health care by strengthening the implementation of parity and other insurance reforms, supporting our mental health workforce and doing everything we can to remove barriers to care and make mental health care more accessible,” he added.

The bill would rely in part on $400 million in US Federal Bailout Act funds.

Although the concept of mental health equity has been codified in federal and state law for decades, implementation has been sporadic, with patients often denied mental health treatment coverage, advocates say.

“It’s a sad, pathetic myth to say we have parity” in Massachusetts, Democratic Senator Mark Montney said during the debate.

The proposal would address the issue of enforcement in part by allowing the Insurance Division to receive and investigate equivalence complaints more quickly.

The bill is an updated version of legislation approved by the Senate last year. Now heading to the Massachusetts home to look at it.

Another problem that the law will address is what is known as emergency boarding or ’emergency boarding’. This is what happens when adults or children with a mental health crisis seek help in a hospital emergency department.

If they eventually need to be admitted to an inpatient psychiatric unit, the wait can last days or weeks. In the meantime, the individual seeking help must wait in the emergency department more often, and receive little or no psychiatric care.

The bill would address the issue by creating an online portal with real-time data to help health care providers more easily search for open beds, requiring hospital emergency departments to have a qualified behavioral health physician to assess patients seeking mental health care during All working hours. Directing the state office of children’s attorneys to prepare an annual report on children’s stay in the emergency department.

The legislation would also compensate mental health providers more equitably, create a standard exemption model, eliminate pre-licensing requirements from insurance providers for acute mental health treatment, encourage health care facilities to develop more emergency psychiatric services, and increase access to mental health care in More geographically isolated areas.

During the debate, senators adopted an amendment that would create a statewide 988 crisis hotline center to provide intervention and crisis care coordination services to individuals who call the 988 suicide prevention and behavioral health crisis hotline.

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