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Bill would extend IT rule to behavioral health


By Maureen McKinney
Posted: April 19, 2010 - 12:00 pm ET
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Legislation introduced April 15 by Reps. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.) and Tim Murphy (R-Pa.) would extend eligibility for meaningful-use incentive payments to many behavioral and mental health professionals.

The Health Information Technology Extension for Behavioral Health Services Act of 2010 would allow substance-abuse treatment facilities, clinical psychologists, psychiatric hospitals, clinical social workers and other providers to vie for the additional funds outlined in the HITECH provisions of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

Kennedy argued that the legislation would aid the mental and behavioral health community in reducing errors and improving quality. He also said it would signal agreement with mental health parity.

“It acknowledges what was established with the passage of the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act—that we need to treat illnesses of the brain just as we would ailments of any other part of the body,” Kennedy said in a statement.

Mental health advocates voiced their support in the days before the legislation was introduced. Linda Rosenberg, president and CEO of the Washington-based National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare, was one of several authors of an open letter calling for the extension of eligibility to mental health and addiction providers.

“While psychiatrists and nurse practitioners providing addiction and mental health services within community behavioral health organizations can access these incentive payments, we assert that CBHOs should be eligible for facility payments to appropriately cultivate organizational use,” they said in the letter.

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