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Independent Living News & Policy from the National Council on Independent Living

An Update from the NCIL Mental Health Subcommittee

Lots of things have been happening around mental health. We fought back attacks on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) with partners in ADAPT and others, but the danger still exists. The House and Senate have passed a budget that threatens to devastate mental health services through major cuts to Medicaid, Medicare, the Affordable Care Act, and other vital programs and services. We still need to make our elected representatives aware of the impact of these cuts and how they will affect people.

Recently:

  • Approximately 38 states have actually combined the Departments of Substance Abuse and Mental Health.
  • The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which insures about 40% of American children, has not been reauthorized. This ongoing failure will affect mental health and overall health for the nation’s vulnerable children.
  • The President has declared the opioid epidemic a public health emergency. This is different than a national emergency, which would include additional funds. This is a complex issue, and we are continuing to follow the national discussion. We encourage you to read last year’s NCIL Statement on Opioids, Chronic Pain, and the Pharmaceutical Industry. In response to the opioid epidemic, there have been calls to change the Institutions for Mental Diseases (IMD) exclusion, which prohibits federal payments for mental health or substance use treatment for facilities with 16 or more beds treating primarily people with psychiatric diagnoses. IMDs are mostly hospitals and nursing facilities, and NCIL has previously opposed changing the IMD exclusion, which would increase institutionalization.

The Mental Health Subcommittee supports as a starting point continuing bipartisan efforts on the Affordable Care Act and we will continue to monitor the proposed Alexander-Murray Obamacare stabilization bill in the Senate. Most importantly, we strongly support the Disability Integration Act, H.R. 2472 and S. 910 – sponsored by Representative James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) and Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY). 

As a reminder, the $1.5 million tax cuts being proposed will come at a high cost to Medicaid and Independent Living services in order to give tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans.

Further, if Congress proposes to block grant Medicaid as part of their efforts to increase “state flexibility”, we already know the harm it will bring. Block grants are a bad idea for several reasons:

  1. They cap the federal contribution to your state.
  2. They cause the state to triage various health-related interests on a finite amount of dollars.
  3. They are an attempt to create divisions among allies on healthcare.

Contact your Senators and Representatives!

A handwritten letter to your elected officials or a visit to their office (in your District or on Capitol Hill) with talking points is a great way to reach out. You can also reach them by calling the Capitol Switchboard at 202.224.3121 and asking to be connected to your Senator or Representative. Almost all Senators and Representatives have Twitter and Facebook accounts, available at Facebook Townhall. Bills can be tracked at www.govtrack.us.

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