April 30, 2021
HELP Committee hearing on COVID-19 lessons learned for addressing mental health and substance use disorders
On April 28, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions (HELP) held a hearing entitled, "Examining Our COVID-19 Response: Using Lessons Learned to Address Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders," where the committee heard testimony from mental health and substance use providers and leaders of state, academic, and community programs. In opening the hearing, Chairman Patty Murray stressed the need to make annual investments to help communities tackle issues of mental health and substance use disorder (SUD), applauding the Biden administration's recent actions to remove barriers to medication assisted treatment (MAT) for opioid use disorder (OUD) and saying that telehealth is no replacement for quality, affordable health care and trained providers in communities of need. Ranking Member Richard Burr (R-NC) highlighted the stressors of COVID-19 and the need to advance local solutions while getting back to some semblance of normalcy. Later in the hearing he also highlighted the need to not only expand telemedicine but to leverage other technologies that can serve as 'multipliers' in the delivery of health care.
Throughout the hearing, the witnesses stressed the need to properly integrate mental and behavioral health care into primary care, such as through collaborative care models, transform the delivery of behavioral health care through telehealth and new payment models, bolster the behavioral health workforce, and build out partnerships and mental health capacity across local communities. They stressed the need to make permanent telehealth flexibilities and provide additional funding and incentives through grant funding to properly train, recruit, and retain the mental health workforce, specifically in underserved areas, and remove barriers to treatment, such as lifting the waiver required for prescribing MAT and addressing barriers to care such as lack of transportation and issues of stigma and trust. Other topics included the Medicaid Reentry Act — which would allow Medicaid to cover services for beneficiaries who are incarcerated 30 days prior to their release, integration of mental health care during pregnancy, and eliminating repercussions of providers reporting mental health issues to regulatory and licensing agencies.
Additional information is available in the attach Tax Alert.
HELP Committee hearing on COVID-19 lessons learned