The House Energy and Commerce Committee June 15 voted 53-0 to approve the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act, H.R. 2646, after several modifications were made to the bill as a result of bipartisan negotiations. The committee-approved bill scrapped earlier measures that would have eliminated the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and revised HIPAA privacy regulations.

In a June 15 letter to committee leaders, the AHA said the revised bill “represents a solid foundation for improving behavioral health care.”

The association stated its support for provisions that would reauthorize suicide prevention programs and authorize a minority fellowship program for mental health professionals.

The AHA also supports a measure to codify a Medicaid managed care regulation allowing optional state coverage of Institutions for Mental Disease, or IMD, services for adults.

The so-called IMD exclusion has been a part of the Social Security Act since it was enacted in 1965. It prevents non-elderly adult patients with health insurance through Medicaid programs from receiving mental health care in a facility with more than 16 beds. The result, providers say, are fewer options for patients covered by Medicaid, who are almost entirely low-income, disabled or pregnant.

In its comments on H.R. 2646, the AHA backed a requirement that the Department of Health and Human Services clarify the circumstances in which covered entities may disclose protected health information of a patient with mental illness.

But the association expressed disappointment that the bill does not revise SAMHSA’s “42 CFR Part 2” regulations to permit sharing a patient’s alcohol- and drug-abuse treatment records within health information exchanges, health homes and other integrated care networks. The AHA and other health care groups have raised concerns that Part 2 restrictions deter patients from participating in programs that encourage information sharing and integration.

“Absent revisions to Part 2 that go beyond what [the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration] has proposed, persons with substance use disorders will not have access to fully coordinated care, and we look forward to working with Congress to modernize these rules,” AHA Executive Vice President Tom Nickels wrote committee leaders.