Legislator expands mental health services |  Boston

Legislator expands mental health services | Boston

BOSTON – Health insurers would be required to cover same-day psychiatric services under a proposal pending action from Governor Charlie Baker that aims to ease barriers to care and improve behavioral health services.

The bill sent to Baker’s desk Monday by the state legislature would require insurers to cover annual mental health exams, similar to wellness checks, and would require them to cover psychiatric and emergency stabilization care on the same day.

The move is the last time to address a mental health “crisis” that experts say has been exacerbated by the disruptions and isolation of the pandemic.

The House and Senate passed separate measures to address mental health issues, and a six-member conference committee worked out the differences between the bills with a compromise plan passed early Monday, the last day of the week. formal sessions.

Revision of mental health laws has been a key point on the agenda for Democratic legislative leaders, including Senate President Karen Spilka who shared the story of her own family’s struggle with mental illness during the debate on the proposal.

“We all deserve to have access to the mental health care we need, when we need it, and today we are on the verge of seeing comprehensive mental and behavioral health care reform signed into law,” the Ashland Democrat said. after the final approval of the bill.

Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr said the legislation will make mental health assessments and treatment “stronger, better and more effective so that people in need of care can better access essential resources in the right place and provided by the right people “.

The Gloucester Republican said the changes take “necessary steps to advance and strengthen mental health care delivery by ensuring parity with physical health care, rapidly moving pediatric mental health patients from emergency wards to settings. more appropriate treatment “.

The approval of the measure follows the state’s commitment to spend large sums of money to improve coverage and mental health care.

In December, Baker signed a $ 4 billion COVID-19 bill that diverts $ 400 million to expand behavioral health services and curb the “boarding” of psychiatric patients.

The provision also includes provisions aimed at reducing the number of adults and children forced to “board” in the emergency room while waiting for beds in psychiatric facilities.

According to the Massachusetts Health and Hospital Association, which keeps a weekly tally, at least 478 people have been admitted to 46 hospitals across the state pending mental and behavioral health services.

The bill would also tighten penalties for insurers who treat mental and physical health differently. While state and federal laws require behavioral health services to be treated by insurers in the same way as physical health care, health care lawmakers and advocates say it doesn’t always work that way.

The plan would also require the state to do more to promote the “red flag” law that allows police, friends or relatives of a legal gun owner to request an “extreme protection” order if they believe the individual represents. a risk to himself or to others. The order gives the police the power to temporarily confiscate firearms and ammunition.

But gun control advocates fear that the number of petitions under the law lags behind other states that have similar protections on their books. They say many people are unaware of the new law, which is probably an important factor.

Baker has until next Thursday to sign, veto or return the legislation to lawmakers with the recommended changes.

Christian M. Wade covers Massachusetts Statehouse for North of Boston Media Group newspapers and websites. Email them at [email protected]

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.