Advocacy Alert: Halfway through the 2021 Legislative Session
Are you a “the glass is half full or half empty” person? Well, Maryland General Assembly is half way through the 2021 Legislative Session! Throughout this session, BHSB has been advocating to increase behavioral health support for individuals, families, and communities and will continue our efforts until the very end. Below are some of the measures that the General Assembly has already passed or are moving through the legislature.
Blueprint for Maryland's Future
A priority for behavioral health advocates across the state, Blueprint for Maryland's Future is a landmark public education reform bill that passed in 2020 but was vetoed by Governor Hogan. During the 2021 Legislative Session, the House of Delegates and the Maryland Senate each voted to override the veto, officially enacting a range of new education funding and policy reforms. The bill includes millions in new funding and a comprehensive set of strategies to enhance school-based behavioral health services, which have been shown to improve student health and education outcomes.
HB 612/SB 496
The Maryland General Assembly voted overwhelmingly to pass emergency legislation introduced by Governor Hogan to provide stimulus payments, tax relief and benefit increases for Maryland families and businesses that have been hurt by the COVID-19 pandemic. As amended by the legislature, the measure includes $20 million in additional funding for behavioral health services. For more information on the RELIEF ACT:
RELIEF Act 2021- This Youtube video summarizes the Act and how it will support Marylanders.
The expanded use of telehealth services has been a critical component in Maryland’s effort to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. The use of telehealth for behavioral health treatment and support services provides people with safe flexible access to care and helps to address racial inequities that limit access to care for people of color. BHSB is supporting several telehealth bills this session:
Preserve Telehealth Act (HB 123/SB 3)
Alcohol and Drug Counseling- Alcohol and Drug Trainees- Practice through Telehealth(HB 1287/ SB 646)
Maryland Medical Assistance Program and Health Insurance- Coverage and Reimbursement of Telehealth Services (HB 551/SB 393)
Behavioral Health Crisis Services
Behavioral health crisis response services help countless individuals overcome life-threatening crises and reduces unnecessary Emergency Department (ED) use and police interaction for people in behavioral health crisis. The onset of the COVID pandemic has only exacerbated the need for behavioral health crisis services. BHSB is supporting the Behavioral Health Crisis Response Services—Modifications (HB 108/SB 286). This bill makes modifications that align the Maryland Department of Health’s Behavioral Health Crisis Services Grant program with the nationally recognized Crisis Now model and federal best practices for behavioral health crisis services. It also increases the authorized funding amount for the grant program over the next several years and ensures that a portion of this funding is dedicated toward mobile crisis team services.
Harm Reduction Advocacy Days
March 17, 1:00 - 4:00 pm, March 18, 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
This year, Harm Reduction Advocacy Day will include policy advocacy and community organizing workshops, as well as conversations with policymakers dedicated to harm reduction and police reform.