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Bill Seeks EHR Incentives for Mental Health Facilities

Janice Simmons, for HealthLeaders Media, August 11, 2010

Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Jack Reed (D-RI) introduced a bill last week that calls for inclusion of mental health professionals and facilities originally excluded from receiving financial incentives for electronic health record (EHR) adoption.

The bill, called the Health Information Technology Extension for Behavioral Health Services Act of 2010, calls for extending eligibility for HITECH financial incentives to behavioral health, mental health, and substance abuse treatment professionals and facilities. It is a companion to the bill (HR 5025) introduced this spring by Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-RI).

"These providers are the backbone of our mental health care system, and it is vital that they have access to cost-saving, quality-enhancing advances in health information technology," Whitehouse said.

Under the bill, the types of providers eligible for Medicare and Medicaid incentives for the use of EHRs would be expanded to include licensed psychologists and clinical social workers.

The bill calls for:

    • Expanding Medicare hospital incentive funding eligibility to inpatient psychiatric hospitals
    • Expanding Medicaid hospital meaningful use incentive funding eligibility to community mental health centers, mental health treatment facilities, psychiatric hospitals, and substance abuse treatment facilities.
    • Clarifying the eligibility of community mental health centers, psychiatric hospitals, behavioral and mental health professionals, substance abuse professionals, mental health treatment facilities, and substance abuse treatment facilities for technical assistance from Regional Health Information Technology Extension Centers.

Janice Simmons is a senior editor and Washington, DC, correspondent for HealthLeaders Media Online. She can be reached at jsimmons@healthleadersmedia.com.

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