Legislative and
Advocacy Update

October 2020
Legislators are back and it's been busy.
The Federation is involved at the national level in monitoring
legislation, advocacy and funding opportunities and identifying resources that could aid your work as the voice for families.
Federation in Action
The Federation actively represents you as part of the Mental Health Liaison Group (MHLG). The MHLG is a forum for collaboration among the leading national mental health and addiction-focused organizations. Together, we provide policymakers with information and support in advancing our shared policy priorities. The MHLG hosts congressional staff briefings to share information on trends and best practices in the field, provides annual recommendations on mental health and addiction funding in the federal appropriations bills, writes letters to Congress outlining our position on important legislation or offering suggestions for improving proposed policies and more. The current statement issues for MHLG are found here.

H.R. 7293– The STANDUP Act of 2020: The bipartisan Rep. Peters (D-CA) and Bilirakis (R-FL) STANDUP Act of 2020 provides resources and technical assistances to States, Tribes, and schools on student suicide prevention awareness and training, and requires SAMHSA Project AWARE grantees to implement school policies for student suicide prevention awareness and training. Equipping our schools with evidence-based suicide prevention policies will allow all stakeholders in the school community, including students, to be the eyes and ears and to speak up when they see or hear one of these signs from a peer/student.

H.R. 1109– The Mental Health Services for Students Act: The bipartisan Rep. Napolitano (D-CA) and Katko (R-PA) Mental Health Services for Students Act provides funding for public schools across the country to partner with local mental health professionals to establish on-site mental health care services for students. This legislation will provide $130,000,000 in competitive grants of up to $2 million each through SAMHSA’s Project AWARE to give students licensed mental health professionals they need for support.

H.R. 4861– Effective Suicide Screening and Assessment in the Emergency Department Act: The bipartisan Rep. Bilirakis (R-FL) and Rep. Engel (D-NY) Effective Suicide Screening and Assessment in the Emergency Department Act assists emergency departments to develop better suicide risk protocols through the Department of Health and Human Services. The emergency department is often the place within the health care system that provides care for patients with suicide-risk factors, with approximately 10% of emergency department patients presenting suicidal ideations. Thirty-nine percent (39%) of patients visiting an Emergency Department following a suicide attempt will go on to reattempt suicide within a year. This legislation will provide training to emergency health care providers, establish policies to improve identification and treatment of individuals at high risk, employ additional behavioral health professionals, and improve access to care for patients.
H.R. 5469– The Pursuing Equity in Mental Health Act of 2019: The Rep. Watson Coleman (D-NJ) Pursuing Equity in Mental Health Act of 2019 is the first comprehensive federal legislation to address increasing suicide rates and mental health disorders among Black youth. If enacted, the bill would: provide grants for culturally appropriate mental health services in schools and community settings; increase funding for research into mental health disparities in youth of color; increase support for efforts to diversify the behavioral health workforce; and establish a commission to examine the effects of Smartphones and social media on adolescent mental health.

Include $4.5 Billion for SAMHSA in FY 2021 Continuing Resolution or Coronavirus Relief Package. We joined the National Council on Behavioral Health along with other MHLG members in writing to urge inclusion of funding for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) – funding that was previously included in the Health, Economic Assistance, Liability Protection and Schools (HEALS) Act – as an anomaly in the Continuing Resolution (CR) or as a priority in a forthcoming coronavirus relief package.

S. 4211, the Facilitating Reforms that Offer Necessary Telehealth in Every Rural (FRONTIER) Community Act, which would expand access to mental health services through telemedicine in frontier states.

Introduced by Rep. Cárdenas (D-CA-29).
The bill would authorize $25 million of funding per year through FY 2025 for the Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to operate a training and technical assistance center to provide schools with substance use disorder and mental health support for students.

Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act (S. 4349)
Received a rare full endorsement from the MHLG group - 50 groups and 44 full members.
The Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act aims to reduce and prevent suicide, burnout, and mental and behavioral health conditions among health care professionals. Health care professionals have long experienced high levels of stress and burnout, and COVID-19 has only exacerbated the problem. The issue captured national attention when Dr. Lorna Breen, a physician from Charlottesville, Virginia working on the frontlines of the pandemic in New York, died by suicide. This bill helps promote mental and behavioral health among those working on the frontlines of the pandemic. It also supports suicide and burnout prevention training in health professional training programs and increases awareness and education about suicide and mental health concerns among health care professionals. 

S. 4211, the Facilitating Reforms that Offer Necessary Telehealth in Every Rural (FRONTIER) Community Act
Sponsored by Sens. Dan Sullivan (R-AK) and Jacky Rosen (D-NV)

The Temporary Reciprocity to Ensure Access to Treatment (TREAT) Act (S. 4421)
The Temporary Reciprocity to Ensure Access to Treatment (TREAT) Act (S.4421) would increase access to health care during the national public health emergency by allowing health care practitioners with a valid practitioner's license to provide services, including telehealth services, in all states for the duration of the public health emergency.

The Mental Health Access Improvement Act (H.R. 945)
The House Energy and Commerce Committee advanced HR 945 to the House Floor.
The Mental Health Access Improvement Act (H.R. 945), would allow mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists to bill Medicare for their services.

Maternal Mental Health Hotline
Under the leadership of the Maternal Mental Health Leadership Alliance, we joined in support of the inclusion of $3.5M funding for a “Maternal Mental Health Hotline” within the Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 LHHS Senate appropriations package. Maternal Mental Health Hotline would provide specialized 24/7 MMH counselors and resources to help baby and mother in this unique disorder that affects 1 in 5 mothers during pregnancy and 12-months following childbirth. 

Eating Disorders Prevention in Schools Act of 2020 (H.R. 6703)
Reps. Adams (D-NC) and Hartzler (R-MO) have introduced legislation that would integrate eating disorders prevention into existing local school wellness policies in an effort to protect youth at-risk for or who experience an eating disorder. The legislation would ensure schools have the resources to properly address student wellness.
Legislative Updates
The House had passed a comprehensive COVID relief bill (the “HEROES Act”) in mid-May. The Senate took up, but failed to pass a more modest bill (the HEALS Act”) on September 10th. A new bill is not expected to emerge before the election.

National Suicide Hotline Designation Act (S. 2661)
  • In July, the Federal Communications Commission unanimously voted to designate 9-8-8 as the universal three-digit dialing code for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
  • September 21st the House passed the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act (S. 2661)
  • This would codify 9-8-8 as the three-digit dialing code for individuals experiencing a mental health crisis.
  • The Senate had passed the bill earlier this year, and it now heads to the president’s desk for his signature.

House Passes Continuing Resolution Through December 11th
The House of Representatives passed a bipartisan continuing resolution (CR) to keep the federal government funded until December 11th. 

Justice for Juveniles Act (HR 5053)
The US House of Representatives unanimously passed the Justice for Juveniles Act (HR 5053), a bill that exempts youth under age 21 from the administrative burdens of the Public Litigation Reform Act, allowing them protections from widespread abuse and mistreatment while in out-of-home placements.

Jenna Quinn Law
A bipartisan child sexual assault bill introduced by Republican Sen. John Cornyn and co-sponsored by New Hampshire Sen. Maggie Hassan, a Democrat, is a step closer to becoming law after passing the Senate. The Jenna Quinn Law, which is modeled on a law of the same name that has already been in effect in Texas for over 10 years, would amend the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act to require training for teachers, students, caregivers and other adults who work with children in professional or volunteer settings on how to identify and report child sexual abuse. It passed the Senate by unanimous consent. The bill still has to pass through the House of Representatives and signed by President Donald Trump before becoming law. Cornyn, Texas' senior senator, urged his congressional colleagues in the House to pass the bill before their recess in early October.
News You Can Use
CMS Issues Urgent Call to Action Following Drastic Decline in Care for Children in Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program Due to COVID-19 Pandemic
September 23rd the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released preliminary Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) data revealing that, during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) public health emergency (PHE), rates for vaccinations, primary, and preventive services among children in Medicaid and CHIP have steeply declined. This decline may have significant impacts on long-term health outcomes for children, as Medicaid and CHIP cover nearly 40 million children, including three quarters of children living in poverty and many with special health care needs that require health services. Further, as many schools remain closed for in-person instruction, many of the key services children receive may be delayed, such as child screens and vaccinations prior to the start of the school year or in-school services such as speech therapy, physical therapy, and occupational therapy. Because preventative and routine healthcare is crucial to ensuring that children stay healthy, CMS is releasing this preliminary data to raise awareness of the vital services Medicaid and CHIP provide,
and calling on stakeholders to take action to make services more readily available
so that we can begin closing the gap in care for children.
DOL Narrows the Definition of "Health Care Provider"
in Families First Coronavirus Response Act
Paid Leave Provisions

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), which went into effect on April 1, 2020, directs public employers of any size and private employers with fewer than 500 employees to provide employees with paid sick leave and/or expanded family and medical leave for specific reasons related to COVID-19, with certain exceptions for "health care providers." In response to a New York District Court ruling invalidating the Department of Labor’s (DOL) definition of “health care provider,” the DOL has revised the FFCRA regulations to narrow the definition of a "health care provider" and provide further specificity on which employees are exempted from the paid leave requirements.“ 
Telehealth Federal & State Policy Changes
"Assessing Legal Responses to COVID-19" was released by Public Health Law Watch. It features a collection of assessments from thirty-six experts examining the United States’ response to COVID-19 from a policy standpoint. The report concludes that there were several legal failures, and provides recommendations on a wide variety of topics.
From the
The Center also has a listing of Current State Laws and Reimbursement Policies by state.
An Analysis of Involuntary
Psychiatric Treatment Laws
Grading the States: An Analysis of Involuntary Psychiatric Treatment Laws
Grading the States: An Analysis of U.S. Psychiatric Treatment Laws examines the laws that provide for involuntary treatment for psychiatric illness in each state. To do so, we asked a crucial question: Does the state law allow an individual in need of involuntary evaluation or treatment to receive timely care, for sufficient duration, in a manner that enables and promotes long-term stabilization?
Nationwide Eviction Moratorium
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued a national moratorium on evictions for nonpayment of rent from Sept. 4 until Dec. 31, 2020. Tenants seeking protection under this order must submit a declaration statement to their landlord
about their inability to make rent payments.
Medicaid Money Follows
the Person Program
Adapted From Disability Scoop

Medicaid officials are looking to “jump-start efforts” to move people with disabilities from institutions to community-based settings and they’re offering up millions of dollars to do so. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services said that up to $165 million is available to states for a program called Money Follows the Person. The Medicaid program provides funding to states to cover employment supports, housing and other services so that individuals with disabilities can transition from nursing homes and other institutional facilities to homes in the community.

Between 2008 and 2019, Money Follows the Person helped 101,540 people leave institutions for community-based settings. Transitions to the community were down 46% in 2019 compared to 2018 as some states slowed or ended their programs. The eligible states are: Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Iowa, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Maine, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, North Carolina, North Dakota, New Jersey, Nevada, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin, West Virginia and Washington, D.C.
New Law on COVID-19,
Paid Leave, and Back to School
The National Council of Nonprofits hosted the webinar - New Law on COVID-19, Paid Leave, & Back to School: What Nonprofit Employers Need to Know to Comply.
Below is a link to a recording of the webinar, along with additional resources:
States Expect Cuts Without
More Federal Aid

  • California - budget includes $11 billion in spending cuts and payment delays that will take effect unless the state receives substantial new federal fiscal aid.
  • Colorado - closed a $3 billion shortfall in its current budget through spending cuts and other measures and faces more cuts next year.
  • Connecticut - Governor Ned Lamont called on agencies to identify at least 10 percent in cuts in the next biennial budget.
  • Florida - Governor Ron DeSantis recently asked agencies to identify at least 8.5 percent in further cuts in the current budget, beyond the $1 billion DeSantis already cut by veto.
  • Hawaii - Governor David Ige warned that the state will have to impose pay cuts or furloughs for public workers unless it gets more federal help or more flexibility to use CARES Act funding to close its budget hole.
  • Michigan - Budget director, Chris Kolb, noted that projected revenues over this fiscal year and next have fallen by $4.2 billion since the coronavirus hit. “These are large revenue losses that will require difficult decisions without additional federal aid, especially in fiscal year 2022,” he said. “Tough decisions will still be required in the next five weeks.”
  • Texas - Governor Greg Abbott called on agencies to propose a 5 percent cut from their current two-year budget.
  • Wyoming - Governor Mark Gordon called on agencies to propose cuts of up to 30 percent from their current budget to offset crashing revenues due to the recession and falling revenue from natural resource extraction.
Settlement Reached with Los Angeles County to Provide Foster Youth with Vital Mental Health Services 
From Bazelon Center for Mental Health

The County of Los Angeles has entered into a new settlement of a longstanding lawsuit, Katie A v. Bontá, where it has made a number of commitments to significantly increase intensive home and community based mental health services for thousands of children and youth involved with the County's foster care system.

The lawsuit, originally filed in 2002, is a federal class action lawsuit against Los Angeles County and its Department of Children and Family Services, as well as California's Department of Social Services and Department of Health Care Services. The suit challenged the county and state agencies for failing to provide necessary and legally mandated health care services to treat the mental health conditions of children. Separate settlement agreements were reached with both the state and LA County in the case.

The County first settled the lawsuit back in 2003 and agreed to provide mental health services, then a long process of engagement and monitoring began. Over time it became clear that the County was not providing the services it agreed to, so plaintiffs filed a successful motion in 2009 to enforce the original settlement provisions. Last year, the County filed a motion to end the case.

Because of the lawsuit, the County has implemented a number of reforms since 2003 in the delivery of child welfare and mental health services. This week's settlement focuses on foster youth who have more intensive but unmet mental health needs, such as those who have experienced placement disruptions, psychiatric hospitalizations, or have been placed in group homes, such as short-term residential treatment programs.

"The Katie A. case has led to tremendous reforms," said Ira Burnim, Legal Director at Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law. "We are pleased that additional progress will be made before the case ends."

The County has agreed to implement new measures to provide intensive mental health services, including intensive care coordination and intensive home-based services, over the next nine months. As this is a class action lawsuit, the settlement will require court approval.

Enhancing Your Advocacy
Post Election Symposium
The Alliance for Health Policy's Post Election Symposium is taking place November 17-18, 2020. This unique event will gather both policy and public health experts in a series of engaging conversations designed to inform audiences about how the results of the upcoming election could shape health policy in 2021 and beyond.
Topics to be covered include:
  • Lasting impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Perennial health care priorities
  • Strategies to address persistent health disparities and inequities
  • Insight into what’s ahead for health policy in the administration, Congress, federal courts, and the states
Sessions are free and open to the public; we encourage audiences of all backgrounds to attend. Registration opens soon!
Where to Find Legislative Information
These new resources developed by the Federation lists resources nationally
and for each state where you can keep up with the latest.
In the States
Our Advocacy Toolkit has been revised to better give you the tools you need
to be the most effective advocate you can be.
News from the States

Issue 3 on November Ballot
What would Issue 3 do? It would make it much more difficult for citizen-led ballot measures to collect the signatures they need to get their proposal on the ballot. It would more than double the requirement for the number of counties where signatures would be collected, from 15 to 45 counties. More signatures required means more money would have to be spent to collect signatures; so only the biggest, best-financed campaigns could succeed in moving their measure forward. It would also decrease the amount of time citizens can collect signatures for ballot measure petitions by about six months, adding yet another barrier to signature collection.


California Senate Bill 855 passed the Assembly Health Committee and the Assembly Appropriations Committee. 
Proposition 118 Provides Colorado Voters With Important Choice On Paid Family, Medical Leave In November
Proposition 118 would allow for 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave funded through a payroll tax paid by employers and employees in a 50/50 split. An additional four weeks of leave would be allowed for pregnancy or childbirth complications. The first premiums would be paid beginning on January 1, 2023, and benefits would begin to be available on January 1, 2024. Under Proposition 118, employers could not take disciplinary or retaliatory actions against employees for requesting or using paid leave.

A community forum to discuss achieving economic justice in our state.

The community budget forum is adapted from Connecticut Voices for Children's Annual Budget Forum to bring information on the state budget and related issues to the broader community. This year, during a time of social, political, and economic upheaval, we'll begin to imagine what economic justice can look like, together.

From the Florida Phoenix
Rural school districts get money to expand
student mental health services during COVID-19
Casey DeSantis announced $2 million to bolster mental health resources for 18 of Florida’s rural counties.
According to a press release, the counties are: Bradford, Calhoun, DeSoto, Dixie, Glades, Gilchrist, Hamilton, Hardee, Holmes, Jackson, Jefferson, Lafayette, Levy, Liberty, Madison, Taylor, Union, and Washington.The funds come as a part of the CARES Act, a 2.2 trillion dollar stimulus package from the Trump administration in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.Money can be used for everything from additional school-based mental health services involving professionals and providers as well as enhancing telehealth access to help serve students.

State lawmakers discuss lowering compulsory school age to 5
Illinois lawmakers may soon consider legislation to lower
the state’s compulsory-attendance law to include 5-year-olds,
a measure advocates see as a way to expand access to early-childhood education, especially among low-income families.
Kansas advocates propose agency to track
foster care system
Child welfare advocates in Kansas are pushing for an independent agency to monitor the state's troubled foster care system. Nonprofit advocacy group Kansas Appleseed, with support from some lawmakers, wants the state to create an Office of the Child Advocate to investigate complaints and track child welfare agencies, primarily the state Department for Children and Families, which oversees the foster care system.

Governor Hogan vetoed the
Blueprint for Maryland's Future,
Blueprint for Maryland's Future, which is the law designed to significantly improve the education outcomes for all children across Maryland and thus, better the state's financial future. Although the Governor’s veto
is disappointing, it is viewed as a temporary setback.


NEW Back-to-School Guide from
Important info about your special education rights & minimizing disruptions to your child’s education during COVID-19. Based on the Department of Education and Secondary Education (DESE) guidelines as of 7/23/2020.


Governor Whitmer issued a new order that requires K-5 students wear a mask while attending face-to-face class.
Previously, only older students were required to wear a mask.

State Legislature Passes FY 21 Budget

A few highlights of what's included in the FY 21 budget:
  • 26 million to expand access to child care for families by increasing the income eligibility from 130% to 150% of the federal poverty level
  • $30 million for Michigan Reconnect – which allows any Michigander over age 25 without a college degree to earn one, tuition-free
Reinstatement of some critical programs previously vetoed, including support for Court Appointed Special Advocates; supports for adoptive, foster and kin families; and increased funding for services for homeless youth.
New York

Governor Cuomo Announces $88.6 Million in Cares Act Funding Available to Assist Child Care Providers During COVID-19 Pandemic
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced $88.6 million in federal CARES Act funding is available to assist child care providers through NY Forward grants as they adjust their programs amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn more.
New York
From the Capital Connector

New York is seeking approval from CMS to authorize federal Medicaid matching funds for certain incarcerated individuals 30 days before their release from state prisons and county jails. If approved, the waiver would provide health coverage for the 207,000 incarcerated individuals released each year who are living with a serious mental illness, substance use disorder, HIV/AIDS or two or more chronic conditions.

Lawmakers call on Gov. Greg Abbott to plan to expand broadband access as pandemic worsens disparities.
A bipartisan group of 88 state lawmakers asked Gov. Greg Abbott on Friday to develop a plan to expand broadband access in the state. Access to broadband has become even more important during the coronavirus pandemic as social distancing has prompted remote learning at schools and remote working for many offices. In 2019, the Legislature created the Governor's Broadband Development Council to research barriers to broadband and study possible solutions. 

The VA House & Senate produced their revised budgets for upcoming votes. Changes to the budget are primarily aimed at K-12 education and child care, higher education, health care,
housing and evictions, broadband, and criminal justice and police reform.

Stay Informed
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Following our dedicated Legislative and Advocacy News and Resources Facebook page is the BEST WAY to keep up with what is going on in all the states and nationally real time.
Legislation and Advocacy Pages
  • Where to find legislative information nationally and in your state
  • Learn how to keep up with news and updates
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  • State tabs where, for each state, you will find:
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Alerting us to what is happening on the state level will aid not only those in your state but others nationally as ideas spread. As you become aware of state or national legislative alerts, funding and advocacy opportunities or resources that could be used to build funding requests, please let us know by emailing mcovington@ffcmh.org.