We are reprinting an email post from Linda Rosenberg, President & CEO of the National Council for Behavioral Health. The National Council led the effort to get the Excellence in Mental Health Act passed and on March 31st, President Obama signed it into law. Big time props to the National Council for their relentless efforts to improve mental health services for those who need it most. Read Linda's post below and be sure to visit the National Council website to learn more about what they do - they do it well!
National Council communication - April 7, 2014
For a time, I relinquished my regular “Letter from Linda” in favor of more “modern” correspondence — blogs, videos, tweets. But, something extraordinary happened last Monday that warrants a real letter.
We did it! The most historic piece of mental health legislation in 51 years passed — the first significant federal investment since the Community Mental Health Act in 1963.
The Excellence in Mental Health Act establishes a two-year, eight state Medicaid demonstration project. Participating states will receive 90% FMAP for the range of health services, including primary care screening, mental health, substance use, and crisis services delivered by Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics. And the Act sets new standards and establishes prospective payments for the designated behavioral health organizations.
After the Sandy Hook, Aurora, Tucson and so many manmade tragedies, every politician spoke of the need for more mental health services, screening, and education. But, like you, I worried they were platitudes. I worried they would never vote to take promise to reality. With things in Washington the way they are, I had my doubts that they would pass a bill calling for new Medicaid funding.
Yet, that’s exactly what happened. Congress passed it on Monday, March 31, and President Obama signed it into law.
None of this would exist without extraordinary people — and extraordinary efforts.
Senator Debbie Stabenow — watching her reminded me of stories about Lyndon Johnson, but with a gentler touch. Partnered with Senator Roy Blunt, they crossed the aisle to work together with passion for the issue and skill for the process. Representatives Doris Matsui and Leonard Lance led the House effort to success. And thank you to Congressman Tim Murphy for his support of the Excellence Act.
The National Council board told us to get it done and allocated the needed resources. Chuck Ingoglia was our brilliant leader, aided by the skilled Rebecca Farley, our policy team, and the support of our entire staff. We depended upon Al Guida, our contract lobbyist who has been with me since I joined the National Council. He spent nights and weekends on the phone with Chuck and Hill staff. They were joined by the newest member of our lobbying team, Catherine Finley. Catherine ensured both sides of the aisle and both Houses remembered that individuals and families in crisis know no politics or party.
But all of DC’s horses and all DC’s men — and women — couldn’t put this together alone.
Everyday people — incredible people — immune to politics, traveled to DC and stood up repeatedly to tell their stories, to create urgency for the cause.
Malkia Newman from Detroit lived more than 30 years with undiagnosed bipolar disorder. She finally got the care she needed from the Oakland County Community Mental Health Authority. Today, she lives a successful life — and serves as the Authority’s Board Chair. From the beginning, she reminded us of what we were working for.
Sheriff Brian Gootkin from Gallatin County, Montana educated Congress on the consequences for law enforcement of untreated mental illness. Every day first responders are asked to be mental health professionals. Our jails are filled with people who need mental health or substance use treatment or both. Sheriff Gootkin made it clear that inadequate services hurts the whole community.
And then there is you. You have to own making this happen — your calls to Congress, your Hill Day visits to the offices of your Senators and Representatives, your advocacy, your support of the National Council. You made this happen.
But we still have promises left to fulfill. If I have learned one thing, it’s that when a long-road ends, it’s often met with a long-road ahead.
Much work remains. We must ensure high-quality efficient services are accessible to all. That no adult or child or family stands alone. That the Excellence Act is not another empty promise, part of the healthcare industry, but is our true north — our pledge to apply the best science, to go the extra mile, and to represent all that is good in medicine.
Bill Gates had it right when he said, “We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten. Don't let yourself be lulled into inaction.”
I look forward to talking with you, learning from you, and taking the Excellence Act nationwide.
Read more about the new law we created. Our future is in it.
Let’s call it our 10-year plan.