Mental Health ABC Act 2.0
Addressing Barriers to Care

The Senate’s Mental Health ABC Act 2.0: Addressing Barriers to Care (ABC) is comprehensive legislation to continue the process of reforming the way mental health care is delivered in Massachusetts, with the goal of ensuring that people get the mental health care they need when they need it.

Due to complex and restrictive medical necessity and prior authorization review processes imposed by insurance companies, many patients experience barriers and delays in treatment – creating a dysfunctional system that allows insurance companies to have more leverage in determining a patient’s course of treatment than health care providers.

The Mental Health ABC Act provides the state with better tools to implement and enforce mental health parity laws, which require that insurance coverage for mental health benefits be equal to and no more restrictive than coverage for physical health benefits. This legislation includes:
 

  • Quicker evaluation and resolution of parity complaints
     

  • Greater reporting and oversight of insurance carriers’ processes and policies related to mental health care coverage
     

  • Penalties and alternative remedies for when an insurance company does not comply with the law
     

  • A pilot program through the Department of Higher Education aimed at creating a workforce pipeline to encourage and support individuals from diverse backgrounds to work toward careers in mental health
     

  • A review of the availability of culturally competent mental health care providers and identification of potential barriers to care for underserved cultural, ethnic and linguistic populations and the LGBTQ community
     

  • The creation of a a Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Fellowship Pilot Program in community health centers 
     

  • A prohibition on insurers denying coverage for mental health services and primary care services solely because they were delivered on the same day in the same facility
     

  • A requirement that emergency departments have the capacity to evaluate and stabilize a person admitted with a mental health presentation at all times, and to refer them to appropriate treatment or inpatient admission.
     

  • Authorization for the Department of Mental Health (DMH), and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) to collaborate on three pilots for tele-behavioral health services in public high schools in the Commonwealth.

Through debate in the Senate, the following amendments were added to the Senate's final bill:
 

  • A pediatric mental health care task force
     

  • Inclusion of veterans and aging adult populations for considerations in the cultural competency study
     

  • An amendment to study the further screening of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs)
     

  • A comprehensive behavioral workforce commission
     

  • An expedited admission protocol for children under 22 who present in an emergency department with mental health needs
     

  • An examination of ways to ease communications, within the context of privacy laws, between health care providers

 

Download the full fact sheet on the Mental Health ABC Act:

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