Wednesday, February 12, 2020


My office distributed the following press release today regarding mental health care legislation.

Amendments Would Make Care More Accessible and Timely

Boston- The Massachusetts Senate will debate a major bill to improve the state's mental health care system on Thursday, and Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester) has offered several important amendments to make the bill stronger and, among other things, increase access to care in terms of availability, timeliness of treatment, and insurance coverage

The bill, an Act Addressing Barriers to Care for Mental Health, features components intended to expand access to timely care, create tools to better enforce existing mental health parity laws, bypass obstacles which delay treatment, and measures to ensure that patients have accurate information about clinician services.

"This bill is desperately needed, and takes important steps to respond to clear systemic problems that are preventing people from being able to get the care they need,” said Senator Tarr, who added "and given these circumstances we need to make it as strong as possible."

The bill is expected to be debated by the Senate Thursday, lawmakers have proposed more than 80 amendments, Tarr has authored 13 amendments for his colleagues to consider ranging from instituting a pediatric mental health task force aimed at expanding availability and quality of services for youths to providing a suicide prevention hotline to assist friends and families of people with suicidality.

“Several of the amendments I am offering will have a deep and positive impact on the people who need access to comprehensive health care when they need it,” said Tarr.

Among Senator Tarr’s amendments are:
• Pediatric Mental Health Care Task Force - Creates the Pediatric Mental Health Care Task Force to undertake a comprehensive analysis of the delivery of pediatric mental health services and make recommendations to improve the availability, access and cost-effectiveness of those services.
• Suicide Prevention and Crisis Management - Creates the Commission on Suicide Prevention and Mental Health Crisis Management to examine the state of suicide prevention and mental health crisis management. The Commission will examine emergency and outpatient care needs, inpatient and long-term care needs, facility and infrastructure needs, public information and outreach; professional training needs and potential shortages. Establishes a dedicated fund suitable to accept donations from charitable organizations.
• Availability Of Behavioral Health Screening - Tasks the Department of Mental Health’s Center for Police Training in Crisis Intervention to examine the availability of behavioral health screening and preliminary treatment in emergency responses by municipal and state police and other public safety personnel.
• Hospital Licensure- Requires hospitals to include access to behavioral health professionals as a condition for a hospital to be licensed by the Department of Public Health.
• Duration of Stay- Requires acute-care hospitals to report the duration of stay in emergency departments or in a satellite emergency facility to the Department of Public Health.
• Behavioral Health Professionals Licensure- Requires, as a condition of licensure, that a behavioral health professional accept at least one form of insurance from MassHealth, the Group Insurance Commission, or a licensed commercial carrier.
• First Responders Grant Program Study To Address Behavioral Health Screening And Preliminary Treatment- Conducts a feasibility study on the creation of a grant program to assist municipal and state police along with other emergency personal in behavioral health screening and preliminary treatment in emergency responses.

Recent research by the Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation of Massachusetts found that a majority of adults sampled in our state who seek mental health or behavior health care have a difficult time securing it, even if they are fully insured.

Senators are expected to begin debate on the reform bill on Thursday, if adopted by a majority of members the bill will proceed to the House where it will be eligible for further action.