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Advocacy Update: April 2024

The last few months have seen significant movement across a broad array of issues.

APA-Led Activities

APA Launches Advocacy Update Webinar Series

On March 27, staff from APA’s Division of Advocacy, Policy, and Practice Advancement was joined by APA President Dr. Petros Levounis to launch the new Quarterly Advocacy Update webinar series. In this interactive setting, APA members learned about the association’s advocacy work with Congress, federal agencies, and the White House, and their critical role in advocacy. For more information and resources, visit the advocacy page and to watch the webinar, click here. Be sure to save the date for the next Advocacy Update on Tuesday, June 25 at noon ET.!

APA Policy and Practice Insight Series: Gambling Disorder

On March 13, APA hosted its monthly series discussing Gambling Disorder. APA member and expert, Dr. James Sherer shared tools to identify the disorder, treatment options, and current trends in the environment affect individuals. This session is a continuation of the work that APA President Dr. Petros Levounis is doing on addiction. You can watch this and other previous sessions and register for the April session on harm reduction by clicking here.

Executive Branch Activities

Mitigating the Impacts of the Change Healthcare Cybersecurity Breach

On February 21, Change Healthcare, a subsidiary of Optum, discovered a threat to its environment, causing it to disconnect from the larger system in order to prevent further impact. This cyber attack has impacted providers across the country and APA has worked with our partner medical societies and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to mitigate the impacts to our members. If you are continuing to have claims, billing, or other practice issues due to this cyber event, please email us at [email protected].

APA and Other Provider Groups Met with the Departments of Labor and Treasury and Health and Human Services to Support Proposed Parity Regulations

On April 4, APA and several other provider organizations met with the Tri-Agencies to support the proposed parity rules intended to strengthen the enforcement of mental health parity laws and improve access to mental health and substance use disorder services. APA strongly encouraged release of the final rules and shared feedback from members related to administrative burden, credentialing into health plan panels and reimbursement rates.

Congressional Activities

APA Joins MHLG Letter Urging SUPPORT Act Reauthorization

On March 12, APA joined the Mental Health Liaison Group (MHLG) in a letter urging congressional leadership to include the reauthorization of the Substance Use Disorder Prevention That Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatment for Patients and Communities (SUPPORT) Act within the Fiscal Year 2024 funding package ahead of the March 22 deadline.

APA Joins Letter to FCC, HHS on 988 Geo-routing

On March 20, APA joined a coalition letter to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) urging the agencies to improve the routing of 988 calls. Currently, when an individual calls the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, their call is routed to a call center associated with their phone number’s area code rather than a call center based on their location. The letter supports the agencies’ commitment to improving geo-routing, including taking action in their capacity as regulatory bodies rather than waiting for Congress to provide a legislative solution. We will continue advocating for the improvement of the national suicide hotline.

APA Supports EARLY Minds Act

On March 25, APA was included in a press release as a supporting organization of Rep. August Pfluger’s (R-TX) legislation H.R. 7808, the Early Action and Responsiveness Lifts Youth (EARLY) Minds Act. The bill, which is co-led by Reps. Kathy Castor (D-FL) John Joyce (R-PA) and John Sarbanes (D-MD), would provide early intervention and prevention services to children and adults struggling with their mental health. Specifically, the EARLY Minds Act would allow states to allocate up to 5 percent of their Mental Health Block Grant funding towards prevention and early intervention initiatives.

MHLG Sends Fiscal Year 2025 Requests to Congress

On March 28, APA joined more than 50 partner members of the Mental Health Liaison Group (MHLG) in submitting mental health priorities for Fiscal Year 2025 to Congress. The letter highlights many APA priorities, including funding requests for Primary and Behavioral Health Care Integration grants, grants for parity enforcement and compliance, funding to bolster the pediatric workforce, as well as various programs to address the maternal mental health crisis. APA will continue to work with Congress and various stakeholders to prioritize mental health funding during the appropriations process.

APA Joins Call to Hold Hearing on Climate Bill

On April 4, APA joined a coalition letter requesting that the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health hold a legislative hearing on H.R. 3073, the Community Mental Wellness and Resilience Act. Specifically, H.R. 3073 would require the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to award grants for planning and implementing community mental wellness and resilience programs to help address mental health conditions associated with and worsened by climate disasters. You can read more about the bill, and APA’s support for the measure, here.

State Advocacy Activities

APA Continues Responding to State Legislation Related to Psilocybin and Psychedelics

APA has coordinated with several district branches to respond to various psilocybin and psychedelics legislation in the states. Since 2020, when Oregon became the first state to decriminalize the manufacturing and administration of psilocybin at licensed facilities, the APA has been assisting state district branches to respond. Six states have enacted legislation and over fifteen currently have proposed legislation. The bills provide for a variety of different measures from decriminalization, allowance for supervised use to pilot programs, research studies and creation of task forces. The APA believes the use of psychedelic and empathogenic agents for psychiatric and other medical indications is currently investigational. The safety and efficacy of these agents have not yet been fully reviewed by the FDA nor have these agents been approved for any clinical indication. For more information email [email protected].

District Branches Successfully Advocate to Protect Patient Safety

APA continues to collaborate with its district branches and state associations to oppose legislation that would expand scope of practice for non-physician providers without the necessary education and training. Most recently, Wisconsin Governor Evers and Oklahoma Governor Stitt each vetoed legislation that would have allowed for APRNs to practice independently.

For more information on APA advocacy-related resources, such as talking points and calls to action, please contact [email protected].

Partnership Activities

APA Discusses Nursing Home Policies and Prescribing of Antipsychotics

APA has been engaged with outside partners (i.e., AMA, AAGP, AMDA - The Society for Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine, American Society for Consultant Pharmacists, etc.) to discuss nursing home policies related to the prescribing of antipsychotics. The focus has been to remove current barriers to appropriate prescribing of antipsychotics in nursing homes. The groups have similar concerns about the existing quality measure that looks only at the number of patients receiving antipsychotics for anything other than Schizophrenia, Huntington’s Disease, or Tourette Syndrome versus the appropriateness of the prescription. The limitations of the measure have had a detrimental impact on patient care by restricting the ability to continue or prescribe for a set of patients for whom that is the most appropriate course of care. APA will be working with other stakeholders to educate Congress and CMS as to the limitations of the measure and unintended consequences in an effort to implement a quality measure that reflects the current evidence and encourages appropriate prescribing.

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