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New Bill to Enhance HIT for Behavioral Health

Congresswoman Doris Matsui (D-CA) and Congressman Markwayne Mullin (R-OK) introduced the Behavioral Health Information Technologies (BHIT) Now Act, legislation to improve coordination of mental and physical health care by supporting behavioral health providers to adopt health IT systems.

Electronic Health Records (EHRs) have become an essential part of our modern healthcare system. However, mental health and substance use disorder providers have been historically left out of previous federal funding efforts to promote the adoption and meaningful use of electronic health records and supporting technology. The BHIT Now Act seeks to deliver long overdue targeted funding that will ensure psychologists, clinical and social workers, as well as Community Mental Health Centers, psychiatric hospitals, and residential treatment centers can invest in the technology needed to support integrated, whole-person care.

“Health information technology is vital to improving health care quality and safety, and it is essential that we make sure our behavioral health providers are equipped with the IT systems to support their growth well into the future,” said Congresswoman Matsui. “Electronic health records are no longer novel technology – they have become a must-have for patients and providers in our modern health care ecosystem. This legislation will open up the door for more behavioral health providers to get their hands on the hardware, software and training they need to leverage vital technology that supports coordinated, high-value care.”

“In order to effectively treat a patient, the doctor must see the whole picture,” said Congressman Mullin. “Many behavioral health providers have faced cost barriers to utilizing electronic health records, making it difficult to coordinate care with primary care providers. I’m proud to introduce this legislation that will increase access to IT for behavioral health care providers and improve the quality of care patients receive.”

The BHIT Now Act provides $250 million total over three fiscal years (FY23-25) to finance behavioral health IT adoption through the CMS Innovation Center (CMMI). The legislation also directs the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to develop voluntary behavioral health IT standards.

Original Cosponsors: Reps. Sharice Davids (D-KS) and Ron Estes (R-KS).

Full text of the bill is available HERE.

The BHIT Now Act is supported by:

  • American Psychological Association
  • Association for Behavioral Health and Wellness
  • Centerstone
  • Jewish Federations of North America
  • Mental Health America National
  • National Alliance on Mental Illness
  • National Association for Behavioral Healthcare
  • National Association of Counties
  • National Association of County Behavioral Health and Developmental Disability Directors
  • National Association of Social Workers
  • National Association of State Alcohol and Drug Abuse Directors
  • National Council for Mental Wellbeing
  • Netsmart

Congresswoman Matsui originally co-authored H.R. 3331, a bill to promote testing of incentive payments for behavioral health providers to adopt and use certified electronic health record technology. In 2018, Congress included this legislation as Section 6001 of the SUPPORT Act (PL 115-231), which authorized a Center for Medicare and Medicaid (CMMI) demonstration providing health IT incentives. However, CMMI has yet to develop a pilot to implement the demonstration. The Bipartisan Policy Center, the United States of Care, and the Medicaid and CHIP Payment Access Commission (MACPAC) have all provided recommendations for CMMI to test a behavioral health EHR incentive payments model to strengthen the integration of behavioral and physical health services. The BHIT Now Act finances the aforementioned model.