Mullin, Colleagues Introduce Legislation to Expand Access to Health IT for Behavioral Health Providers

U.S. Senators Markwayne Mullin (R-OK) and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), along with Reps. Doris Matsui (CA-07) and Bill Johnson (OH-06), recently introduced the Behavioral Health Information Technology (BHIT) Coordination Act. The legislation will improve coordination of mental and physical health care by supporting behavioral health providers’ efforts to adopt health information technology (IT) systems.

Electronic Health Records (EHR) have become a necessary component of modern health care, allowing providers to communicate with patients more seamlessly, coordinate care and improve patient outcomes. However, previous federal funding efforts to promote the adoption and meaningful use of electronic health records and supporting technology have historically left out mental health and substance use disorder providers. The BHIT Coordination Act seeks to deliver long overdue targeted funding to ensure behavioral health providers can invest in the technology needed to support integrated, whole-person care.

“To effectively treat a patient, the doctor must see the whole picture,” said Senator Mullin. “Many behavioral health providers have faced cost barriers to utilizing electronic health records, making coordinating care with primary care providers difficult. I firmly believe addressing mental health is just as important as any physical ailment, and its necessary patients’ records are treated accordingly. I’m proud to introduce this legislation that will improve the quality of care for patients seeking behavioral health care and substance use treatment.”

“Robust, interoperable EHRs are a core clinical and operational tool to expand coordinated, high-quality care – and now we must ensure that all of our behavioral health providers have access to these vital IT systems,” said Congresswoman Matsui. “Despite widespread recognition of the value of health IT, behavioral health providers do not have the resources to utilize these tools. The Behavioral Health IT Coordination Act will bridge this gap and ensure we invest the necessary resources for widespread adoption throughout the behavioral health community.”

“We’ve learned in the past few years about the importance of expanding the use of technology in healthcare…especially mental healthcare,” said Congressman Johnson. “This is why I’ve partnered with Congresswoman Matsui to ensure that specialized care providers in behavioral health, mental health and substance abuse are able to seek grants to further help fund the treatment of these disorders.  In rural places like Eastern Ohio, where so many struggle with substance abuse and mental health issues, many facilities need new healthcare technology to remove unnecessary barriers and ensure continuity of care. This bipartisan legislation is going to give rural healthcare providers and facilities an opportunity to upgrade their technology systems.  I’m hopeful the House acts on this legislation soon.”

Specifically, the BHIT Coordination Act:

  • Provides $20 million a year in grant funding over five fiscal years (FY25-29) to finance behavioral health IT adoption through the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC). 
  • Requires a report to Congress on the number and type of behavioral health care providers that receive the grant, their ability to electronically exchange patient health information with other provider types, and clinical and non-clinical outcomes for patients.
  • Directs ONC and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to develop voluntary behavioral health IT standards.
  • Directs the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), SAMHSA, and ONC to develop joint guidance on how states can use Medicaid authorities and funding sources to promote the adoption and interoperability of certified EHR technology for behavioral health providers. 

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

Full text of the bill is available HERE.

The BHIT Coordination Act is supported by:

  • Acadia Healthcare
  • American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP)
  • American Psychiatric Association (APA)
  • American Psychological Association (APA)
  • American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM)
  • Association for Behavioral Health and Wellness (ABHW)
  • Bipartisan Policy Center Action
  • Centerstone
  • Eating Disorders Coalition for Research, Policy & Action
  • Jewish Federations of North America
  • HIMSS Electronic Health Record Association
  • Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute
  • Mental Health America
  • National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)
  • National Association for Behavioral Healthcare (NABH)
  • National Association of Counties (NACo)
  • National Association of County Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities Directors (NACBHDD)
  • National Association of State Alcohol and Drug Abuse Directors (NASADAD)
  • National Association of Social Workers (NASW)
  • National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors
  • National Council for Mental Wellbeing
  • Netsmart
  • Network of Jewish Human Service Agencies
  • NHMH – No Health Without Mental Health
  • REDC Consortium