Mental Health, Substance Use and Recovery

Sponsored Legislation

S.1284 An Act to provide more timely treatment of inpatient mental health care

This bill would help protect and improve access to inpatient psychiatric care in Massachusetts by addressing a number of areas. Currently, Massachusetts is an outlier in comparison to other states and national standards for requiring 24-hour physician coverage that is nearly impossible for freestanding hospitals to meet due to available physicians, is extremely costly, and not necessary to protect patient health and safety. This bill would require the Department of Mental Health (DMH) regulations to take into consideration physician supply issues for inpatient mental health facilities.

Additionally, there can be delays for weeks when seeking a second medical opinion and, in the meantime, the patient remains on the unit without treatment, even if the hospital believes such treatment is crucial for the patient. To address such delays, this bill would require the patient to request a second medical opinion within 24 hours of appointment of their attorney. It would also require the second opinion to be completed within 3 business days. This would not take away the patient’s right to get a second opinion, but it would simply require that it be conducted more promptly.

The bill would also address a delay in the commitment process. Currently, it can take weeks for a commitment hearing to come before the court – delaying treatment for the patient. This bill would ensure that the commitment hearings begin promptly after the filing of the petition. It would also remove a provision in M.G.L. c. 123 § 8B that allows for a patient or their attorney to request a delay of up to 14 days for a hearing. This would not remove the court’s ability to schedule the hearing, but rather, it would prevent delays to much needed treatment without compromising the patient’s ability to have the hearing.

Finally, the bill would direct the Department of Children and Families (DCF) and the Child Advocate’s Office to create an expedited process for children under DCF care who are hospitalized in inpatient psychiatric hospitals and in need of anti-psychotic medication.

S.1285 An Act ensuring access to addiction services

This bill would require that people with substance use disorder (SUD) be treated as patients rather than as criminals. The bill would require that all Section 35 commitment beds for SUD, for men as well as women, be in treatment facilities approved by the department of public health (DPH) or the department of mental health (DMH), and not in correctional facilities. The bill allows an exception for individuals concurrently committed pursuant to an order issued in a criminal case, as long as such correctional facility is capable of providing appropriate, evidence-based treatment.

S.1286 An Act relative to a PACT pilot program for children

This bill would require the Department of Mental Health (DMH) to establish a 3-year pilot program of assertive community treatment to treat individuals under the age of 22 who: (1) exhibit symptoms of serious emotional disturbance; (2) demonstrate an inability to consistently use less intensive levels of care in the community; and (3) have functional impairment and a history of difficulty in functioning safely and successfully in the community, school, home, or workplace. The bill would also require DMH to annually report to the house and senate committees on ways and means and the joint committee on mental health, substance use and recovery the progress and results of the pilot program and any identified barriers and challenges to treatment for the mentioned treatment group.

S.1287 An Act to increase investment in behavioral health care in the Commonwealth

This bill would require a shift in health care spending to achieve a significant increase in investment in behavioral health care services over the course of 3 years. The initial investment target would be based on a 30% increase over baseline behavioral health care spending, as calculated by the Center for Health Information and Analysis (CHIA). This spending target would be in effect for 3 years. Thereafter, subsequent 3-year targets would be set by the Health Policy Commission (HPC) based on input and calculations from CHIA and after holding a public hearing. The system-wide health care cost growth benchmark would still apply as an upper limit on total health care spending.

Health care systems and insurers would be held accountable for achieving the behavioral health investment target through the same process currently in effect for the health care cost growth benchmark – i.e. through the HPC cost growth hearing process and the performance improvement plan process.

S.1288 An Act removing preauthorization requirements for mental health acute treatment

This bill would remove preauthorization requirements for mental health acute treatment and stabilization services for adults, adolescent and children. The provider would be required to inform the insurer of admission and treatment plan within 72 hours of admission.

Cosponsored Legislation

S.2572 An Act addressing barriers to care for mental health (Senate Ways and Means Committee)

The Mental Health ABC Act 2.0: Addressing Barriers to Care (ABC) (S2572), is comprehensive legislation introduced to continue the process of reforming the way mental health care is delivered in Massachusetts, with the goal of ensuring that people get the mental health care they need when they need it. This legislation comes at a time when the Massachusetts State Senate is making landmark investments in mental and behavioral health. The Mental Health ABC Act 2.0 is driven by the recognition that mental health is as important as physical health for every resident of the Commonwealth and should be treated as such. The bill proposes a wide variety of reforms to ensure equitable access to mental health care and remove barriers to care by supporting the behavioral health workforce. View more about the Mental Health ABC Act 2.0.