Category Archives: Federal Legislation

Sharing Mental Health Information: Details of the New HIPAA Privacy Rule

Sharing Mental Health Information: Details of the New HIPAA Privacy Rule

Date: April 16, 2014, 2:00pm – 3:00 p.m. Central Time

Presenters: Sherri Morgan, Christina Heide, and Marissa Gordon-Nguyen, HHS/Office for Civil Rights; and Kate Tipping, SAMHSA

Register for free at

The Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights recently issued guidance on the HIPAA Privacy Rule and sharing information related to mental health. Learn from experts in health information privacy about this new guidance, including privacy protections for mental health records and psychotherapy notes and circumstances in which the Privacy Rule permits providers to share patients’ information with others. Presenters will discuss when family, friends, and others involved in care can access treatment information, when law enforcement and other professionals need to know information, and circumstances when other laws may apply – such as where drug and alcohol abuse treatment facilities and schools are involved.


Medicare Physician Payment Bill Includes Two Mental Health Provisions

On Monday night, the U.S. Senate passed HR 4302, the Medicare Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) extension. The bill passed the U.S. House of Representatives last week and now goes to President Obama for his signature. HR 4302 includes two provisions that are relevant to people living with mental illness and their families.

First, the bill includes the Excellence in Mental Health Act demonstration project. This eight (8) state pilot is critical to modernizing publicly funded mental health services to align with evidence-based practices and to streamline Medicaid funding. The eight states selected will receive planning grants and Medicaid funding to provide comprehensive community-based mental health services and supports, including integrated mental health and primary care treatment. Community mental health programs participating in this program will be required to provide a broad range of services, including 24-hour mobile crisis teams, crisis stabilization services, outpatient mental health and substance use services, peer and family supports, and intensive, community-based services for veterans.

Second, HR 4302 includes authority for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to undertake a new pilot program for states to establish and expand “Assisted Outpatient Treatment” (AOT) programs. This program applies to individuals living with serious mental illness who are not participating in treatment and experience serious adverse consequences such as repeated hospitalizations, homelessness or incarceration. States that choose to apply for funding appropriated for this program will be required to gather outcomes data on the effectiveness of the program, including its impact on reducing negative outcomes.
HR 4302 can be accessed here. The Excellence in Mental Health Act demonstration project can be found in Section 223 and the Assisted Outpatient Treatment demonstration program in Section 224.

Tell Congress “Don’t Cut SSDI to Pay for Unemployment Insurance!”

As early as today, the U.S. Senate may resume consideration of legislation to extend federal emergency unemployment compensation benefits – a vital program that Congress must support.

Unfortunately, some in Congress continue to push for cuts to Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) to help pay for the proposed extension.
During consideration of the extension in January, various Senators introduced multiple amendments to cut or eliminate SSDI for workers with disabilities who receive Unemployment Insurance (UI) after losing a job. Thanks to strong advocacy by people with disabilities and their allies, these proposals failed to advance – but may reemerge as the Senate resumes its consideration of emergency unemployment compensation extension over the next few days.

SSDI and UI are separate programs, but some people qualify for both because they have a significant disability, receive SSDI, and try to work — but lose their job through no fault of their own. By law, SSDI beneficiaries are encouraged to work if they can, and many do work part-time. Benefit cuts would erode the economic security of workers with disabilities and their families, and would treat people with significant disabilities who receive SSDI differently from all other American workers.

Our nation’s Social Security system should not become a piggybank. Social Security is paid for by workers and their employers. Any changes to Social Security must be considered as part of careful deliberations about how to strengthen Social Security.
Take action here:

Call your Senators and let them know:
• Don’t cut Social Security to pay for extending Unemployment Insurance! Both programs are important, but Social Security must not become a piggybank.
• Social Security disability beneficiaries who try to work should not be treated differently from other American workers. Unemployment Insurance should be there for them in their time of need. It’s fair and it’s right.
• Cuts to Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) could hurt the financial security of people with significant disabilities and their families.

All Senate Offices can be reached by calling 202-224-3121.

Thank you for your advocacy!
Click here to view additional background on SSDI and UI:

NAMI Texas and other organizations offer Enrollment Assistance in the Health Insurance Marketplace

*NAMI Texas Policy Intern, Maeve Hallman, wrote this post:

“As we progress through the final month of open enrollment in the Health Insurance Marketplace, over 4 million people have signed up to receive coverage through These high numbers are due, in large part, to dedicated efforts by community volunteers who assist people with their enrollment. Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), organizations can become designated to certify their employees and volunteers as Application Counselors. To become a Certified Application Counselor (CAC), an individual must complete training sessions and pass 2 exams on the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) website. Then, CACs provide in-person assistance to individuals and families by helping them understand and complete the Marketplace application and by explaining the different health plan options so that they can make an informed choice about enrollment.

Through the application, an individual learns whether or not he/she and family qualify for a premium tax credit or other cost-sharing reductions that can make the cost of insurance more affordable. Eligibility for and size of this type of financial assistance is based on personal information like household size and income, which CAC organizations like NAMI Texas are required to protect and keep confidential for the people we help to enroll. It’s important to keep in mind that, under the Affordable Care Act, many people are required to have health insurance or pay a financial penalty. Consulting a CAC like NAMI Texas can help you and your family understand what is required of you by law and what types of assistance you may be eligible for.

NAMI Texas became a designated CAC organization because of the improvements that the ACA has made to health care for individuals with mental illness. Before the law went into effect, individuals with mental illness faced a wide gap in insurance coverage. According to 2013 data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, about 20% of individuals with insurance through the individual market had no coverage for mental health services. Additionally, of the 47.5 million uninsured Americans, 25% had a mental health condition or substance abuse disorder or both. Under the ACA, “mental health and substance use disorder services” are included in the 10 Essential Health benefits that all new small group and individual market plans are required to cover beginning in 2014. The ACA also extends the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008, which requires mental health and substance use disorder coverage to be comparable to general medical and surgical coverage.

NAMI Texas has 2 CACs on staff, and together we have helped approximately 30 people apply for and enroll in health insurance so far. It is very rewarding to know that we are helping individuals and families, many of whom were previously uninsured, get access to affordable health insurance coverage. Our office is one of 484 application assistance centers throughout Texas. Open Enrollment ends on March 31, 2014. So, these organizations and community volunteers will be working in full-force over the next few weeks to help as many people enroll in health insurance as we can. Our office in South Austin is open from 9 am to 6 pm Monday thru Friday and appointments with our CACs can be booked by dialing 512-693-2000. You can also find local help in your community by visiting the following website:”

Please Contact Congress Today to Keep Students Safe in Schools

Please Contact Congress Today to Keep Students Safe in Schools

NAMI applauds Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee for introducing The Keeping All Students Safe Act (S. 2036). This bill greatly restricts the use of restraint and seclusion in our nation’s schools to protect children from harm. Restraint means not allowing an individual to freely move their arms, legs or head. Seclusion means a person is placed in a space that they cannot leave. Children have been seriously harmed, traumatized and some have died from the use of restraint and seclusion in our nation’s schools.

Take action with this link:
A report issued by the U.S. Department of Education shows that restraint is being used in alarmingly high numbers on students with disabilities, including those living with mental illness. Effective alternatives exist to reduce and eliminate the unnecessary use of restraints and seclusion and protect students and staff. This bill supports alternatives that provide students with a safe and positive learning environment. There are currently NO federal laws regulating the use of restraint and seclusion in schools.


We urge swift action to move the Keeping All Students Safe Act (S. 2036) forward. There is also a companion bill in the House of Representatives (H.R. 1893).

Please use the following link to contact your Senators and House Representatives today and urge them to co-sponsor the bills and to move this legislation forward.

Hill Day 2014 Webinar Series

Topic: Introduction to Hill Day
Date: February 13, 2014
Time: 3 – 4:30 p.m. Eastern Time
2 – 3:30 p.m. Central Time
1 – 2:30 p.m. Mountain Time
12 – 1:30 p.m. Pacific Time
10 – 11:30 a.m. Hawaii Time
NAMI will be hosting a webinar series in preparation for Hill Day on September 4th, 2014. This webinar will provide an introduction to Hill Day and to the webinar series. The webinar will cover what to expect in your Hill visits, the importance of building a relationship with your legislator and how to establish that relationship.

Speakers: Darcy Gruttadaro, Director, Child and Adolescent Action Center
Jean Moore, Manager, Military Veterans Policy and Support
Registration Instructions:
To register for the webinar you need to click on the link below or copy and paste the link in to your Internet Explorer browser:
Immediately after you complete the registration you will receive a confirmation from If you do not immediately receive a confirmation email please 1) double check to make sure you input your email address correctly when registering and/or 2) check you SPAM mail to see if it went there. If you still are unable to find it, please email me directly and I will send you the log-in information for the webinar.
You will also receive an automatic reminder from Live Meeting one day in advance of the webinar, just in case you misplace the original confirmation notice.
Follow the step-by step instructions sent to you from LiveMeeting to successfully join the webinar.
Step 1. Join the Live Meeting
Join the Live Meeting by placing your mouse cursor and clicking on Join the meeting in the body of the email reminder.
Step 2. Join the Audio Portion
You can hear the presentation by phone or computer:
Computer Audio
To use computer audio, you need speakers and/or a headset.
Phone Audio
Dial the (888) 858-6021 and enter your participant code from your reminder email followed by #
First Time Users: You must install Microsoft Office LiveMeeting on your Computer at least one day in advance of the meeting. Click here for more information.
MAC Users: Download internet browser called Safari at least one day in advance of the meeting and Microsoft Office LiveMeeting on your computer. Click here for more information.
Registration: You must register for the webinar in order to participate. Click here for more information on how to register.
Need Help with downloading LiveMeeting? Contact LiveMeeting Support at 877-283-7062 or
Emily Cepla, MPH
Program Manager, Child and Adolescent Action Center
National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)
3803 N. Fairfax Drive, Suite 100
Arlington, VA 22203
Direct Line: (703) 600-1107

Please Complete 5-Question Survey on Mental Health Guide

Prior to the 83rd Texas legislative session, the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health published “A Guide to Understanding Mental Health Systems and Services in Texas 2012.” As they prepare to update the guide for the next legislative session, the Hogg Foundation would appreciate your feedback in order to improve the usefulness of the publication. Please take a moment to complete a brief five question survey provided in the link below by December 20th. Your participation is invaluable to ensuring the guide serves as a beneficial reference tool. To access the electronic version of the guide, please visit

Take survey here: