December 4, 2023

An April 6 press release announced that Congresswoman Doris Matsui (D-CA) and Congressman Markwayne Mullin (R-OK) introduced a new act focused on improving behavioral health providers are not left behind when it comes to health information technology, including electronic health records (EHRs). The act, dubbed The Behavioral Health Information Technologies (BHIT) Now Act, aims to coordinate mental and physical health are by supporting behavioral health providers to adopt health IT systems.

The release states that “Electronic Health Records (EHRs) have become an essential part of our modern healthcare system. However, mental health and substance use disorder providers have been historically left out of previous federal funding efforts to promote the adoption and meaningful use of electronic health records and supporting technology. The BHIT Now Act seeks to deliver long overdue targeted funding that will ensure psychologists, clinical and social workers, as well as Community Mental Health Centers, psychiatric hospitals, and residential treatment centers can invest in the technology needed to support integrated, whole-person care.”

Further, “The BHIT Now Act provides $250 million total over three fiscal years (FY23-25) to finance behavioral health IT adoption through the CMS Innovation Center (CMMI). The legislation also directs the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to develop voluntary behavioral health IT standards.”

Matsui was quoted in the release saying that “Health information technology is vital to improving health care quality and safety, and it is essential that we make sure our behavioral health providers are equipped with the IT systems to support their growth well into the future. Electronic health records are no longer novel technology – they have become a must-have for patients and providers in our modern health care ecosystem. This legislation will open up the door for more behavioral health providers to get their hands on the hardware, software and training they need to leverage vital technology that supports coordinated, high-value care.”

The Behavioral Health Information Technology Coalition praised the BHIT Now Act in a statement. The coalition is comprised of companies including the American Psychological Association, Association for Behavioral Health and Wellness, Mental Health America, National Association for Behavioral Healthcare (NABH), and National Alliance on Mental Illness.

In the statement, NABH president and CEO Shawn Coughlin was quoted saying that “The National Association for Behavioral Healthcare (NABH) applauds Reps. Matsui and Mullin for recognizing that for far too long, behavioral healthcare providers have not received health information technology funding that other providers have benefited from. Their legislation would enable behavioral healthcare providers to coordinate care across behavioral healthcare service systems, primary care facilities, and specialty medicine providers more efficiently.”