Reps. Tim Murphy (R-Penn.) and Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Tex.) have introduced a bill allowing behavioral health and addiction treatment providers to receive payments from the Medicare and Medicaid Electronic Health Record Incentive programs.

The bipartisan Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act expands Medicaid and Medicare meaningful use incentives eligibility to include mental health treatment facilities, psychiatric hospitals and substance abuse treatment facilities. The bill also expands the types of providers that are eligible to receive these funds, including clinical psychologists and licensed social workers.

By doing so,  supporters of the proposed legislation argue it will promote integration of psychology and mental health in primary care settings, reduce adverse drug-to-drug interactions, reduce duplicative tests, and provide necessary information to the emergency department at hospitals to triage patients more effectively.

Also See: Addressing Challenges of Substance Abuse Data in the Age of EHRs

The Behavioral Health IT Coalition, which has lobbied for interoperable EHRs for both primary and behavioral health providers, supports the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act. The HITECH Act, which defines eligible professionals as medical doctors, doctors of osteopathic, dentists, dental surgeons, podiatrists, optometrists and chiropractors, excludes psychologists and most other non-physician providers from receiving Medicare and Medicaid incentive payments and grant funds to adopt EHRs.

“Persons served in the behavioral health space are among the largest utilizers of Medicaid dollars due to the high incidence of co-occurring physical health disorders, which often lead to extensive visits to emergency rooms,” said Kevin Scalia, executive vice president of Netsmart, an IT vendor and a founding member of the Behavioral Health IT Coalition. “Sixty-seven percent of that population has co-occurring conditions ranging from diabetes to heart disease. Coordinated care—made possible in part by EHRs—can improve their quality of life and lower healthcare costs.”

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