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Bipartisanship Prevails as Congress Passes Funding for Mental Health Providers

Behavioral health clinics in Oregon and Oklahoma will remain open past March 31 thanks to a House bill that passed with overwhelming, bipartisan support.
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By Mark McCullough ·

Here’s some great news for behavioral health services in Oregon and Oklahoma.

The U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved a bill late Monday that would provide $14 million in critical funding and allow Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics (CCBHCs) in those two states to continue operating through at least June.

The House passed H.R. 1839, the Medicaid Services Investment and Accountability Act of 2019, by voice vote, meaning no roll was taken showing how each member voted. Section 4 of the bill provides the funding for the Oregon and Oklahoma clinics.

Without this money, life-saving behavioral health programs operated by CCBHCs in the two states would’ve been terminated at the end of this month.

In Oregon alone, that would have resulted in 9,100 patients losing access to medication-assisted treatment and 3,000 clinician layoffs, according to a letter AFSCME President Lee Saunders co-authored with ally groups to underscore the importance of the program and urge Congress to extend and expand it.

The House-passed legislation now moves to the U.S. Senate. Unless Congress renews the program by the end of June, programs in Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania will lose funding as well.

“We need to be investing more in programs and policies that allow providers to focus on patient care, not paperwork, and give them a voice to speak up about things that work and things that don’t,” said Stacy Chamberlain, executive director for Oregon AFSCME Council 75. “The bipartisan nature of this vote reflects how successful these programs have been in finding cost effective and innovative solutions to the behavioral and mental health issues our state faces.”

A recent Washington Post article showed how Oregon’s Cascadia Behavioral Healthcare developed a new way to analyze patient data and develop protocols, which helped patients better manage depression, anxiety and pain and reduced emergency room visits.

AFSCME members who work at Cascadia are some of the thousands of behavioral health professionals who are part of the AFSCME-led United We Heal campaign, which is aimed at building a strong and equitable community behavioral health system through programs that H.R. 1839 would help fund.

AFSCME members will continue to push for a permanent funding solution and expanded services nationwide. Our union urges Congress to pass S. 824 and its companion, H.R. 1767, which would expand mental health and addiction services in communities across the nation.

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