Regional Policy Council
Mental Health America's goal is to partner with our affiliate field to initiate, advocate for, and implement federal and state policies that positively affect the lives of children, youth, and adults with mental health and substance use conditions. MHA established in 2009 a Regional Policy Council (RPC) to work with MHA's Public Policy and Advocacy Department to achieve these policy goals in a coordinated and effective manner. The RPC is comprised of nine of MHA's most knowledgeable affiliate public policy or executive directors.
2013 ISSUE FORUMS
The first of four scheduled issue forums was held March 7, 2013. Read about the event.
In 2013, MHA and the RPC will work with its various constituencies and partners to address several issues related to ACA and MHPAEA implementation. Although these issues may change depending on policy developments at the federal and state levels and may vary slightly based on the specific needs of each region, we expect to focus on the follow policy issues:
- Medicaid Coverage Expansion. Advocacy to promote adoption of the Medicaid expansion as well as policy issues related to infrastructure and benefit design will be critical, including enrollment procedures, scope of services offered, and health information technology practices to monitor quality.
- Medicaid Managed Care. MHA is concerned with the inevitable move of many fee-for-service state Medicaid programs to managed care. States are making decisions about the best process to move health and mental health services to managed care contracts. MHA will advocate for consumer-focused managed care practices that do not restrict access and that improve care coordination and quality, while promoting recovery-oriented, patient centered practices.
- Establishment of State Health Insurance Exchanges. In addition to the expansion of Medicaid, ACA also seeks to increase the number of individuals covered by insurance through the establishment of state-based Exchanges or marketplaces. Open enrollment for the Exchanges is set to occur in fall of 2013, so MHA will need to be engaged in state level decisions.
- Essential Health Benefits. States are currently choosing benchmark plans on which the benefits of participating Exchange plans must be based. MHA is concerned with the benchmark plan process and the ways states will ensure that MHPAEA is enforced and mental health and addiction treatment services are adequate for those purchasing plans in the Exchanges.
- Primary Care/Behavioral Health Integration. The ACA includes several provisions to promote the integration of primary, behavioral health and other specialty care to better treat the entire person. We continue to advocate for a strong role for behavioral health care, given the high prevalence of co-morbidity of mental health, substance use, and other chronic physical conditions like diabetes, hypertension, and cardiac disease.
- Prevention of Mental Health and Substance Use Conditions. MHA will work to protect the Prevention and Public Health Fund and other important provisions of the ACA that help prevent behavioral health problems and promote the health and well-being of all Americans.
- Funding for mental health and addiction services and supports. MHA will continue to oppose cuts to and champion increases for federal and state funding of services and supports for people living with, or at risk of, mental health and substance use conditions.
MHA and the RPC aim to address these policy issues through Regional Meetings, MHA Headquarter Meetings, Issue Forums, Issue Briefs, the MHA Annual Conference and RPC-National Communication.
2013 REGIONAL POLICY COUNCIL REPRESENTATIVES
Regions 1 & 2 - Barbara Johnston, Director of Advocacy, MHA-NJ
CT, ME, MA, NH, RI, VT & NJ, NY
Region 3 - Linda Raines, Executive Director, MHA-MD
DE, DC, MD, PA, VA, WV
Region 4 - Ellyn Jeager, Director of Public Policy and Advocacy, MHA-GA
AL, FL, GA, KY, MS, NC, SC, TN
Region 5 - Shel Gross, Director of Public Policy, MHA-WI
IL, IN, MI, MN, OH, WI
Region 6 - Gyl Wadge Switzer, Director of Public Policy, MHA-TX
AR, LA, NM, OK, TX
Region 7 - Susan Crain Lewis, President and CEO, MHA-Heartland
IA, KS, MO, NE
Region 8 - Moe Keller, V.P. of Public Affairs and Systems Advocacy, MHA-CO
CO, MT, ND, SD, UT, WY
Regions 9 & 10 - Rusty Selix, Executive Director, MHA-CA
AZ, CA, HI, NV & AK, ID, OR, WA
At-Large - Steve McCaffrey, President and CEO, MHA-IN
Public Policy Committee Representative
In 2009, the RPC Representatives completed policy resource maps of their respective regions that include the mental health policy landscape, affiliate strengths, state legislative priorities, advocacy training needs policy an advocacy resources, and partnership opportunities. The RPC Representatives reached out to affiliates in their regions to gather this information and forge relationships that will improve advocacy efforts and communication. They continue to monitor the policy landscape and needs of the affiliates in their region through regular communication.
RPC representatives work with MHA policy staff to strengthen relationships with federal, state, and community agencies and legislatures. Their role is to communicate with MHA national headquarters and other affiliates regarding policy priorities, advocacy activities, and technical assistance and training needs within each region. The RPC has made available resources and webinars on topics of importance to the affiliates, including health care reform and access to medications. MHA believes this is the only network of its kind with a mission to continually focus on critical mental health policy issues simultaneously at the community, state, and federal level. The RPC acts as a bi-directional conduit of important mental health policy information and activities. MHA's affiliate RPC members are experts in state mental health policies, and they continuously monitor state and community legislative actions which can affect our constituency within each region. They also alert MHA national headquarters to mental health issues which may require the attention of agencies of the federal government.
Concurrently, MHA national headquarters work regularly with the representatives of the federal government to craft appropriate legislation and to make regulatory recommendations on issues affecting the behavioral health sector. MHA then updates the members of the RPC to ensure the members are well-versed on the current federal policy and legislative trends. This allows MHA and RPC members to engage policymakers and service providers at the regional, state, and community level in an authoritative way.
With the help of the RPC, MHA policy and advocacy staff have been gathering and developing resources to provide to the affiliate network and other interested stakeholders on issues that were identified as significant during resource mapping. In particular, MHA staff have been identifying resources on health reform implementation, parity implementation, access to treatment, comparative effectiveness research (CER), and appropriations and budget advocacy.