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2017 Legislative Wrap-Up

Beth Hess - Thursday, April 20, 2017

Maryland’s 2017 Legislative Session ended with passage of a number of important bills that address mental health and substance use, as well as education. Below are brief summaries of key pieces of legislation. Unless vetoed by the Governor, these bills will become law. For more detailed information about any bill, use the House (HB) and/or Senate (SB) bill numbers included with each summary to search on the

Maryland General Assembly website.

Your Voice Made a Difference!

Thank you to all who attended MCF’s Family Day in Annapolis and advocated on behalf of the Keep the Door Open Act (KTDO).  KTDO was incorporated into the HOPE Act and passed!

The Heroin and Opioid Prevention Effort (HOPE) and Treatment Act of 2017 (SB967/HB1329), a broad-encompassing bill that was expanded to include a number of substance use and mental health provisions, passed both the House and Senate with nearly unanimous support.  Incorporated into this bill was language from the Keep the Door Open Act (SB476/HB580), which MCF had highlighted at our annual Family Day in Annapolis.   The Keep the Door Open Act aims to address the crisis in Maryland’s behavioral health workforce – high turnover rates and a shortfall of providers – by providing increases in the Medicaid reimbursement rates to community behavioral health professionals.  The HOPE Act requires that payments to providers increase by 3.5% in each of the next two fiscal years and by 3% the following year.  In addition, the bill calls for a rate-setting study.

The HOPE Act also requires:
  • An assessment of drug court programs to determine how to expand them.
  • The establishment of 24/7 behavioral health crisis treatment centers, consistent with the crisis services strategic plan currently being developed, with at least one crisis center established by June 1, 2018.
  • The expansion and promotion of a 24/7 behavioral health crisis hotline, with trained staff who have extensive, up-to-date knowledge of mental health and substance use services, and are able to conduct screenings for mental health and substance use disorders.
  • The repeal of the requirement that an individual receive training and certification in order to access Naloxone from a pharmacist.
  • The establishment by all hospitals of a protocol for discharging patients who were treated for a drug overdose or identified as having a substance use disorder.
  • The development of a plan to increase substance use disorder treatment in jails and prisons.
Other bills of interest include:

SB 710 and HB 174 – Require that an Individualized Education Program (IEP) team obtain written consent from a parent in order to:
  • Enroll a child in an alternative education program that does not provide credits toward a Maryland high school diploma.
  • Identify a child for alternative education assessments.
  • Include restraint or seclusion in a child’s IEP.
If the IEP team does not obtain a parent’s written consent, the onus is on the IEP team to institute a dispute resolution process.

SB 1060/HB 1082 – Requires an expansion of drug addiction education (specifically heroin and opioids) and prevention in schools and in institutions of higher education, along with the establishment of overdose response policies.

HB 425 – Prohibits the suspension or expulsion of pre-kindergarten, kindergarten or first or second grade students from public schools, except if required by federal law, or in the event of narrowly specified conditions, and requires the use of alternate interventions.

HB 786 – Requires that the Maryland State Department of Education and the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene recommend to County Boards of Education best practices to provide behavioral health assessments and behavioral health counselling services in schools.  The bill also prohibits insurers from denying coverage for behavioral health services provided by a participating provider solely on the basis that the service was provided at a public school or through a school-based health center.

HB 887 – Prohibits health insurers from requiring prior authorization for medications used to treat opioid use disorders.

HB 1522 – Requires that the Maryland State Department of Education and the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene conduct a needs assessment for student school-based behavioral health services.

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