Bipartisan bills to improve mental health treatment headed to governor

HARRISBURG, June 30 – A bipartisan legislative package to modernize Pennsylvania’s mental health and substance use disorder laws passed the state Senate today and is headed to the governor, according to state Rep. Mike Schlossberg.

“These bills will reduce barriers to mental health care, improve the care that people receive, and make it easier to coordinate treatment for physical and mental health. During the past few years, caregivers have shown a greater understanding that mental health and physical health do not exist in separate silos. When somebody has a challenge with mental health, it likely has an effect on physical health. Likewise, when somebody has a physical health challenge, it can have an effect on mental health. It’s time we stop treating physical health and mental health separately and integrate treatments,” Schlossberg said.

House Bill 1561 would amend the state Mental Health Procedures Act, and H.B. 1563 would amend the Pennsylvania Drug and Alcohol Abuse Control Act to align with federal health privacy standards to permit providers, facilities, and health plans to share patient mental health and substance use disorder-related information more easily.

Both bills would utilize terminology and requirements that are already familiar to providers to create a consistent and easily understandable standard and revise outdated regulations to provide consistency between statutory and regulatory language and their intended requirements.

Under current Pennsylvania law, mental health and physical health information cannot be fully shared among providers. The proposed changes would bring Pennsylvania in line with the majority of states that already share this information and are seeing improved patient outcomes. It would leave all HIPAA protections in place, and information could not be shared outside of a medical context.

“I was honored to work with Speaker of the House Bryan Cutler and Representative Frank Farry on these bills and I look forward to continuing that bipartisan cooperation on improving the mental health care system with additional colleagues from both parties,” Schlossberg said.

Both pieces of legislation are headed to the desk of Gov. Tom Wolf and Schlossberg said he is optimistic that the governor will sign them into law.