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National Council Public Policy Update as of August 2, 2007

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The National Council for Behavioral Healthcare in its August 2, 2007 PUBLIC POLICY UPDATE reports that:

The House passed legislation to improve access to mental health services for VETERANS returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

On Monday, the House passed a bill to improve access to mental health services for returning veterans. The bill includes a provision to obligate the Department of Veterans Affairs to fund the creation of service partnerships with community mental health and addictions agencies to expand access to mental health services for National Guard members and reservists living in rural America.

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"The Veterans’ Health Care Improvement Act of 2007 [HR 2874] would authorize the Secretary of Veterans Affairs [ VA] to develop and implement a comprehensive national program to increase the availability of mental health support so that veterans affected by combat-related mental health problems do not go without the care they need. In remote areas of the country in which the VA determines there is inadequate access to a VA medical center, the Veterans Mental Health Outreach and Access Act directs the Secretary of the VA to contract with community mental health centers to provide treatment and support services and readjustment counseling."

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The bill also calls on the VA to develop a national program to train returning service members for positions as peer outreach workers and support specialists.

"The bill passed by voice vote, is an omnibus measure that combines several pieces of legislation passed by the House and Senate committees. The package also includes provisions to increase care for homeless and low-income veterans and authorizes a transportation grants program for veterans in rural areas.

In the Senate, the Veterans Mental Health Outreach and Access Act [ S38 ] is awaiting consideration by the full Senate."

"In related news, the President’s Commission on Care for Returning Wounded Warriors released its recommendations on Tuesday. The commission led by former Senator Bob Dole [R-KS] and former Secretary of Health and Human Services [HHS] Donna Shalala, recommended broad changes to the veterans’ health care system, including the need to ensure that all Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who need treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder [PTSD receive the care they need."

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Champ Act Passes in House; Would Make Several Important Changes to Medicare

"On Wednesday evening, the House passed a $90 billion legislative package that would reauthorize and expand the State Children’s Health Insurance Program [SCHIP] by raising the federal tax on cigarettes by 45 cents-per-pack and cutting Medicare payments to private insurers. The bill which passed by a vote of 225-204, links the reauthorization of SCHIP to a variety of Medicare and Medicaid provisions in an attempt to garner broad support for the bill.

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Introduced by Representatives John Dingell [D-MI], Frank Pallone [D-NJ], Charles Rangel [D-NY], and .Pete Stark [D-CA], the Children’s Health and Medicare Protection [CHAMP] Act of 2007 [HR 3162] would expand SCHIP by $50 billion over the next five years. Under the CHAMP Act, SCHIP would be required to cover mental health services on an equal basis with any other medical services.

In addition to reauthorizing SCHIP, the CHAMP Act contains several Medicare and Medicaid-related provisions."

"As expected, when the House began debate on the CHAMP Act on Wednesday, this large legislative package attracted a great deal of opposition. Republican members of the House, who have voiced a number of objections to the bill, offered a series of roll call votes on procedural measures in an attempt to slow the bills progress until they secured an additional hour of debate."



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An OEN Editor. Born-03/20/1934, BA Pol. Sci.-U of Washington-1956, MBA-Seattle U-1970, Boeing-Program Control-1957-1971, State of Oregon-Mental Health Division-Deputy Admistrator-1971-1979, llinois Association of Community MH (more...)

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