The Alaska Behavioral Health Association (ABHA) tracks key legislation on both the state and federal level to help inform public dialogue with the direct perspective of those delivering care here in Alaska and to prepare our system of care as best we can for changes in store. New laws, regulations, and policies can increase access to care, improve quality outcomes, and reduce costs. Despite good intention, they could potentially also complicate and already complex healthcare delivery system, limit access, and increase costs.

“The perspective of those charged with implementing new legislation and policy is critically important to achieve its intended goal.”

Alaska’s regular legislative session typically starts on the fourth Monday in January and ends after 90 days. During session, click for the State Legislature’s most current Floor Calendar and Committee Calendar.

State Legislation – Budget:

On December 15, 2016, Governor Walker introduced his proposed State Fiscal Year 2018 Operating Budget. The proposed budget includes $3 million reduction to the Behavioral Health Treatment & Recovery grants.

Behavioral Health grants provide services for children with severe emotional disturbance (SED), adults with serious mental illness and substance use disorders, and Alaskans in need of psychiatric emergency services.

The next step in the proposed FY18 operating budget process will be consideration by the Health & Social Services subcommittee of House Finance.

State Legislation – Bills:

Status:
Passed and signed into law.

What It Does:
This “Medicaid Reform Bill” includes many provisions aimed at reducing the cost of our Medicaid program through smart redesign. Notably, the provisions include:

  • Contracting with an Accountable CareOrganization (ACO) for the management of caredelivery;
  • Developing an 1115 waiver for sweeping behavioral health system reform; and
  • Allowing behavioral health providers to bereimbursed by Medicaid for behavioral healthservices without having to comply with grantrequirements.

View Bill

Status:
Passed and signed into law.

What It Does:
This “Omnibus Crime Bill” transforms many aspects of our correctional system. Of particular note, the bill re-examines options for individuals struggling with drug and alcohol problems and recognizes the value of community behavioral health treatment in helping to reduce recidivism.

View Bill

Status:
Passed and signed into law.

What It Does:
Among other things, this bill addresses how we respond to the crime of minor consumption and possession of alcohol. In the past, we tried to use steep penalties and permanent records to address the problem. This new approach helps law enforcement and the courts identify minors that may need help and provides support for treatment.

View Bill

Alaska’s Congressional Delegation

Congressman Don Young

D.C. Office: (202) 225-5765
Email Congressman Young

Senator Lisa Murkowski

D.C. Office: (202) 224-6665
Email Senator Murkowski

Senator Dan Sullivan

D.C. Office: (202) 224-3004
Email Senator Sullivan

Federal Legislation

Status:
Passed and signed into law.

Co-Sponsors:
Young, Murkowski, Sullivan

What It Does:
Authorizes federal grants to help address prescription opioid abuse and heroin use. Creates a Task Force to update best practices for pain management.

The newly signed law authorizes federal grants but was widely criticized for not including necessary funding. This new law is a very important step in addressing a national epidemic.

[ S. 524 / H.R. 953 ]
Status:
Passed the House

Co-Sponsors:
Young, Murkowski, Sullivan

What It Does:
Among other provisions, provides federal funding for up to 12 months of mental health and substance abuse treatment services for a child or caregiver if the services are directly related to the child’s well-being or to prevent the child from entering foster care.

[ H.R. 5456 ]
Status:
Passed the House

What It Does:
This bill includes fairly dramatic changes such as: transferring responsibilities from SAMHSA Administrator to a new Assistant Secretary position, providing liability protection for certain mental health professional volunteers, disclosing protected health information of an individual experiencing SMI to a caregiver under certain conditions, expanding incentives for HIT, and creating NHSC eligibility for pediatric mental health subspecialists.

[ H.R. 2646 ]
Status:
Introduced in both the House and Senate

What It Does:
Alaska was one of the 24 states awarded a planning grant for the demonstration project. As things stand right now, only 8 states (of the 24) will be selected to continue as part of the demonstration project.

This initiative is significant in two ways. First, it creates a new type of provider with defined essential services. The new provider type will help standardize coordinated and comprehensive care recognized at both the state and federal level. That recognition can help provide state and federal resources directly to the CCBHC. The second major benefit is that the CCBHC will be paid using a prospective payment system based on encounters rather than reimbursement based on a fee-for-service model.

[ S. 2525 / H.R. 4567 ]
Status:
Introduced in both the House and Senate

Co-Sponsors:
Sullivan

What It Does:
The Alaska Training Cooperative (formerly Trust Training Cooperative) has trained 5159 participants in Mental Health First Aid since 2011. They have been able to train 75 MHFA Trainers and have offered the training in 33 communities across Alaska.

[ S. 711 / H.R.1877 ]
Status:
Introduced in both the House and Senate

Co-Sponsors:
Young, Murkowski, Sullivan

What It Does:
Allows Licensed Marriage & Family Therapists and Licensed Mental Health Counselors to bill Medicare directly for behavioral health services.

*S. 1830 includes “Seniors” in the title of the Bill.

[ S. 1830 / H.R. 2759 ]
Status:
Introduced in both the House and Senate

What It Does:
Among other provisions, requires a comprehensive school mental health program assisted by greater collaboration between schools and community mental health programs.

[ S. 1588 / H.R. 1211 ]