News & Announcements

HIT Opportunities for Behavioral Health Providers (posted 4/22)

Posted: April 22, 2010

A new bill in Congress would expand federal health information technology (HIT) opportunities to community behavioral health providers and organizations. MIWwatch reports, "This legislation would extend the incentives for the 'meaningful use' of electronic health records established through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act by ensuring the eligibility of many behavioral and mental health professionals, psychiatric hospitals, behavioral and mental health treatment facilities, and substance abuse treatment facilities." According to MIWatch, Kennedy stated, "This legislation would further extend the incentives included in the HITECH Act to the mental and behavioral health community. It acknowledges what was established with the passage of the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act - that we need to treat illnesses of the brain just as we would ailments of any other part of the body." The Health Information Technology Extension for Behavioral Health Services Act of 2010 (H.R. 5040) represents an important opportunity for the behavioral health field to embrace electronic health records and other HIT, but some organizations are advocating for important improvements in the bill. To read more about this issue on the National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare website click here. To download their fact sheet click here. To read the full MIWatch article click here.

Health Secretary Addresses Minority Health Issues (posted 4/22)

Posted: April 22, 2010

At the National Action Network Convention, Wednesday, April 14, 2010, in New York the Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced that HHS is developing a national plan of action focused on reducing documented health disparities between minority and white populations. The Associated Press reports, "HHS has been writing reports for 25 years documenting the gap in health care services between white and minority communities, but there never has been an action plan to address the gap [Sebelius said]." In addition to health care disparities, the plan will focus on access to health insurance and dissemination of health information through social networking. To read the full article click here. To learn more about the National Action Network Convention click here.

2009 Health Care Quality and Disparities Reports (posted 4/14)

Posted: April 14, 2010

Improvements in patient safety continue to lag, according to the 2009 National Healthcare Quality Report and National Healthcare Disparities Report issued April 13th by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). AHRQ's annual quality and disparities reports, which are mandated by Congress, were first published in 2003. The reports show trends by measuring health care quality for the nation using a group of credible core measures. The data are based on more than 200 health care measures categorized in four areas of quality: effectiveness, patient safety, timeliness, and patient-centeredness. "Despite promising improvements in a few areas of health care, we are not achieving the more substantial strides that are needed to address persistent gaps in quality and access," said AHRQ Director Carolyn M. Clancy, M.D. "Targeted AHRQ-funded research in Michigan has shown that infection rates of HAIs can be radically reduced. We are now working to make sure that happens in all hospitals." To read the press release click here. To download the National Healthcare Quality Report and the National Healthcare Disparities Report from the AHRQ's website click here.

Chapter 3 on Access to Health Care in the National Healthcare Disparities Report has a section on mental health care and substance abuse. "Although the prevalence of mental disorders for racial and ethnic minorities in the United States is similar to that for Whites,31 minorities have less access to mental health care and are less likely to receive needed services. Differences in receipt of services also may reflect, in part, variation in preferences and cultural attitudes toward mental health."

ONAP Releases Report of Community Recommendations for the National HIV/AIDS Strategy (posted 4/14)

Posted: April 14, 2010

Last fall, the Office of National AIDS Policy (ONAP) asked Americans to give their input for the National HIV/AIDS Strategy, which will be released in the coming months. ONAP received over 1000 written responses from nearly every state and U.S. territory, from people affected by or living with HIV, from men, women, and transgender individuals, from young and old, and from respondents of various ethnicities, racial backgrounds and sexual orientation. A core set of common themes emerged across all of the recommendations received and last week ONAP released an initial report of the major themes that they heard from the public. Greg Millet, Senior Policy Advisor in the White House Office of National AIDS Policy stated, "Throughout this process we heard that people want to bring the issue of HIV/AIDS back into the forefront of the American psyche through efforts such as social marketing campaigns and comprehensive HIV prevention and education for youth, injection drug users, communities of color, and gay and bisexual men. Access to care was also commonly discussed. Specifically, expanding support services for people living with HIV and the need to diagnose and treat co-occurring conditions such as Hepatitis, substance use, mental health, and markers of economic instability (e.g. housing, joblessness)." To read the full statement from click here.


Health Care Reform and Diverse Communities (posted 4/12)

Posted: April 12, 2010

Many community-based organizations are applauding the passing of the historic HR 3580 Patient Protection & Affordability Care Act.  The $940 billion bill will cover 32 million uninsured Americans and ban the denial of coverage for preexisting conditions. Additionally, the bill includes investments in prevention, public health, mental health parity, and disease research. There are important implications in this legislation for behavioral healthcare, treatment and prevention of HIV/AIDS, and minority health. Questions still remain, however, about how meaningful this healthcare reform bill is, and how it will affect vulnerable populations.

Join these three webinars to learn more about health care reform and how it will address disparities:

  • How Will Health Care Reform Impact Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Communities?

    Thursday, April 22, 2010 3:00 PM - 4:00pm ET

    This webinar hosted by the Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum will break down how the newly enacted health care reform (HCR) law applies to low-income, minority, and immigrant communities. Our distinguished speakers will provide an overview of how HCR positively impacts Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander communities, with a concentration on the legislation's health disparities provisions. The webinar will also consider what advocates and communities can do within their states as health care reform implementation begins, and what we do in the future to address existing barriers to coverage and services in our nation's health care system. To register click here.


  • The Law of the Land: Health Care Reform and Implications for Disparities in Health and Health Care

    Thursday, April 29, 2010 12:00 - 1:00pm ET

    Join The Disparities Solutions Center as they review the key provisions of the recently enacted health care reform bill, "Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act ", that will target racial/ethnic disparities in health and health care. Daniel E. Dawes, JD, of Premier Healthcare Alliance Advocacy Office, and Carlos Jackson of American Hospital Association will provide an overview of the key provisions. Joseph R. Betancourt, MD, MPH, Director of the Disparities Solutions Center at Massachusetts General Hospital, will provide his perspective on these provisions and the impact they can have on racial/ethnic disparities in health and health care. To register click here.


  • Beyond Reform: Health Concerns and Disparities Among America’s Fastest Growing Populations

    Thursday, May 6, 2010 from 9:00 - 12:00pm ET

    On May 6th, the Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum will hold a briefing to explore exactly why such stark disparities exist and how to alleviate them. Two panels, Shine the Light: A Research Agenda to Reveal Hidden Needs, and Who Has Access? Culturally Appropriate Care Across America will feature both journal authors and prominent policymakers. To register click here.

    Among the topics to be discussed are: How are ethnic disparities and cancer survival rates related; How can health care reform improve the access and quality of care available to minority and vulnerable populations; How does culturally appropriate care affect the quality of health services; What impact does immigration status have on rates of disease and death?


Learn what advocacy organizations are saying about health care reform:

  • The Asian and Pacific Islander American Health Forum reports, "Additional health policy changes [are] needed to improve the health of AA and NHPI communities, including increased funding for qualified health interpreters and translators and the elimination of a five-year waiting period for legal immigrants to access the Federal Medicaid program. Allowing legal immigrants to access cost-saving preventive care would in many cases eliminate costly emergency room treatment for health problems that have become too severe to ignore."
  • The Black AIDS Institute reports, "While the new legislation may be a step toward the establishment of a more perfect union, it is far from perfect—the Senate still has some significant work to do during the reconciliation process before real victory can be claimed. However, the legislation already has some elements that dramatically change the healthcare prospects for the 1.2 million Americans living with HIV/AIDS."
  • The National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare reports, "We applaud the passage of a health care reform package that includes parity for mental health and addiction services, ban on pre-existing condition exclusions, Medicaid expansion to 133% of Federal Poverty Level, and many other provisions that expand the opportunities for individuals with mental illness and addiction to maintain insurance coverage and access needed services." The National Council held a webinar on what healthcare reform means for behavioral healthcare organizations on March 30th.  To download the presentation click here (5.1MB). To view the recording (Windows 2000 or higher) click here.
  • The National Council for LGBT Health reports, "While the final bill was not as inclusive of the diversity of the LGBT community as we could have wished, the National Coalition for LGBT Health commends the bill’s focus on setting goals and objectives for improving health through federally-supported prevention; a comprehensive sexuality education program; an increase in funding for community health centers; and the focus on addressing and alleviating health disparities."

To engage in discussion about what healthcare reform means in your community become a member of the NNED Forum, click here.  Visit the NNED Forum space on What Healthcare Reform Means for Diverse Communities.

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