Kansas Delegation writes letter to HHS Secretary Azar supporting HIT incentives for behavioral health providers.

Moderator: Jonas Waizer, Ph.D., Chief Healthcare Policy, FEGS Health and Human Services, New York City, NY


Bill Cadieux, Chief Information Officer, The Providence Center, Providence, RI

Joseph F. Cvitkovic, Ph.D., Director of Behavioral Health Care, Jefferson Regional Medical Center, Pittsburg, PA

Kevin Scalia, Executive Vice President, Netsmart Technologies, Long Island, NY




March 12, 2013-

Senate Staff Briefing

"Behavioral Health Information Technology: A Tool to Save Money and Improve Quality Care"



See the full letter here.

July 20, 2011-

Senate Staff Briefing

"Saving Money and Lives: A Briefing on Behavioral Health Information Technology"


December 3, 2014-

Senate Staff Briefing

"Mental Health and Substance Use Community Addresses Interoperability of Electronic Health Records"

See Dear Colleague Letter Here


July 22, 2014-

Senate Staff Briefing

"Behavioral Health Information Technology: A Tool to Save Money and Improve Quality Care"


Moderator: Mark Covall, President & CEO, National Association of Psychiatric Health Systems


Dennis King, President of Maine Health Mental Health Partners & CEO of Spring Harbor Hospital, ME

Joan Sivley, Board Member, Centerstone Research Institute, Nashville, TN •Don Miskowiec, CEO, North Central Behavioral Health System, Inc., LaSalle, IL

Joseph F. Cvitkovic, Ph.D., Director of Behavioral Health Care, Jefferson Regional Medical Center, Pittsburg, PA

Kevin Scalia, Executive Vice President, Netsmart Technologies

​May 31, 2019

Politico Pro: Health IT trade groups rebel against ONC, CMS rules

Behavioral health providers who have yet to adopt EHRs may find it too difficult to meet these and other standards, Al Guida, president of Guide Consulting and head of the Behavioral Health Information Technology Coalition, said on the call.

Therapeutic behavioral health providers "primarily maintain paper patient medical records and exchange data via fax to this day," he said. They likely lack the resources to adhere to new health IT certification requirements, he said. Mental health providers will need substantial reimbursement to be able to acquire health IT systems that meet the standards touted in the ONC and CMS proposals, he said.

May 30, 2019

Fierce Healthcare: Health IT stakeholders calling for ONC, CMS to 'go back to the drawing board' on interoperability rules

Al Guida, president and CEO of Guide Consulting and speaking on behalf of the Behavioral Health Information Technology Coalition, said the proposed rules set up behavioral health providers to fail because most providers do not have the health IT resources to comply with the requirements.

Behavioral health, mental health and substance abuse treatment professionals and facilities were not included as eligible for federal funding to adopt EHRs under the HITECH Act. As a result, behavioral health and mental health providers have lagged considerably in the adoption of health IT and EHRs.

"In our view, the information blocking and interoperability rules are divorced from reality," Guida said. "Psychiatric hospitals, as a condition of participation in Medicare, will have to generate admit, discharge and transfer (ADT) electronic notifications. In the opioid use space, ONC is proposing five existing certification criteria as part of the 2015 health IT certification around addiction treatment and medicated-assisted treatment. But we don’t have the resources to adhere to those requirements and it sets us up for failure."

Guida is calling on federal healthcare policy leaders to implement a higher reimbursement rate or lump sum payment for addiction treatment and mental health providers in order to acquire the health IT systems necessary to adhere to the new requirements contained in the proposed rules.

May 30, 2019

MedPage Today: Interoperability Program Attracts Critics

Psychiatrists also have reservations about the proposed regulation, according to Al Guida, JD, a behavioral healthcare consultant who was speaking on behalf of the Behavioral Health Information Technology Coalition, which represents behavioral healthcare providers and patient advocates. "This therapeutic space was left out of the HITECH Act, so we primarily maintain paper patient medical records and exchange data by fax to this day," he said. For these providers, "the information-blocking and interoperability rules are divorced from reality ... We don't have the resources to adhere to [the rule's] requirements, and it sets us up for failure."

What is most disturbing, Guida added, is that "70,000 Americans died of overdoses last year, but ONC is proposing to arm addiction providers with a non-binding informational guide in the IT space, and that's unlikely to be widely adopted or very effective in influencing specifically how medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is rolled out in the United States."

He suggested another option which involves three demonstration projects that the CMS is planning to start around MAT. "It's entirely appropriate for ... the requirements in the interoperability rule to be applied to each of those MAT demonstrations; however, there has to be a higher reimbursement rate or a higher lump-sum payment for addiction treatment providers and mental health providers to acquire health IT systems to adhere to requirements contained in these new rules."

May 30, 2019

Inside Health Policy: Health IT Group: ONC Interoperability Plan Goes Beyond Congress’ Intent  

Al Guida, president and CEO of the Behavioral Health Information Technology Coalition, also said behavioral health centers, including psychiatric hospitals and community health centers, do not have the resources to keep up with the proposed interoperability requirements in the ONC or CMS rules.

In February, CMS also proposed new interoperability requirements on providers, including new conditions of Medicare participation for hospitals as well as new stipulations for Medicare Advantage, Medicaid and exchange plans. The rule also includes a number of areas where the agency has asked for feedback, including how to improve patient identification in electronic health records and promote interoperable health IT across long-term care, post-acute care and behavioral health providers. 

Guida said it would be more appropriate if interoperability requirements for behavioral health providers were applied to Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation demonstrations that pair them with higher reimbursement rates or lump sum payments.

December 12, 2018

Politico Morning eHealth: COALITION REACTION TO TESTIMONY BEFORE THE HOUSE E&C COMMITTEE​. Politico Morning eHealth featured BHIT Coalition reaction to Dr. Rucker’s testimony before the House Energy and Commerce Committee and his comments on behavioral health IT.

“Noting that while CMMI — due to the SUPPORT Act (H.R. 6 (115) ) — will have future opportunities to help extend tech, Rucker argued that the government has an opportunity to improve things rather simply making sure admit, discharge, and transfer (or ADT) data is disseminated through health information exchanges that tell doctors when their patients have been hospitalized. That might help for patients admitted for a drug overdose.

"There may be low-hanging fruit and we are looking at how to expand that," Rucker said. His comments back up our earlier reporting about last week's White House interoperability meeting, during which CMS Administrator Seema Verma stated that the government is hoping to promote more fulsome release of ADT data.

It's "not enough," said Al Guida, a lobbyist for the Behavioral Health IT Coalition, noting increased usage of EHRs was a critical prerequisite for safe expansion of medication assisted treatment. Such treatment can be most safely used if prescribers check whether there are any patient allergies or interfering medications — both of which are best with an EHR.”

December 5, 2018

Politico Morning eHealth: BEHAVIORAL HEALTH IT COALITION LETTER TO CMS. The Behavioral Health IT Coalition wants CMS to boost health IT as it implements the new SUPPORT Act, H.R. 6 (115), law to combat the opioid crisis. Specifically, the coalition — with members like the American Psychological Association and Association of Behavioral Health and Wellness — wants proof of interoperability capability to be mandated to be eligible for CMMI demonstrations, as well as use of ePrescribing for medication assisted therapy demonstration

October 16, 2018

Politico Morning eHealth: COALITION LETTER TO CMMI. ​At least one health IT group is pressuring CMMI to get specific about implementation plans for a provision in the new legislative opioid package allowing that group to incentivize behavioral health providers to adopt health IT products.

The opioid legislation, which awaits President Donald Trump's signature, describes a demonstration program that could nudge behavioral health centers to use EHRs. The Behavioral Health Information Technology Coalition has asked CMMI for a meeting to discuss the agency's demonstration program on bundled payments for medication-assisted treatment for substance use disorder, according to coalition president and CEO Al Guida. In a letter to CMMI head Adam Boehler the group argued that updated EHRs could enhance behavioral health providers' ability to combat the opioid crisis, potentially by allowing better e-prescribing

September 11, 2018

The BHIT Coalition was highlighted in an op-ed article published by the Morning Consult discussing CMMI's role in fighting the opioid crisis. 

Written in the op-ed, it states:

"Behavioral providers must have access to EHR systems to properly coordinate care because of the sky-high incidence of co-occurring medical/surgical conditions among individuals with mental health and SUD. Health IT can also enhance the quality of and access to medication-assisted treatment through e-prescribing. Since we are at the beginning of the MAT revolution in SUD treatment, an e-prescribing requirement would yield critically important data by electronically tracking prescribers, dosages, dispensing facilities, who are receiving MAT, and information regarding clinical outcomes — ushering in a new era of accountability." 

 June 12, 2018

Morning eHealth: CONGRESSIONAL PASSAGE OF BEHAVIORAL HEALTH INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY INCENTIVES DEMONSTRATION PROGRAM. The House of Representatives passed HR 3331 on voice vote.  Politico called it “the biggest” of the opioid bills.  GCS also ushered the Senate companion to pass through unanimous consent earlier this year.

This legislation received favorable coverage from Politico in May and June 2018.

June 13, 2018

Politico Morning eHealth: HOUSE BILL VOTE ON OPIOIDS CRISIS. The House voted on a package of 25 bills addressing the opioids crisis Tuesday, part of a broader package slated for approval later this month. For eHealth purposes, Lynn Jenkins's bill (H.R. 3331 (115)) establishing a demonstration program for incentives for behavioral health providers' EHR adoption is probably the most notable of the batch. 

May 10, 2018

Politico Morning eHealth: POLITICO NOTES BHIT EHR INCENTIVES IS BIGGEST PART OF E&C PACKAGE MARKED UP. “Probably the biggest was (H.R. 3331 (115)), to extend EHR incentive payments to behavioral health providers. Remember, a similar bill — the Improving Access to Behavioral Health IT Act (S. 1732 (115) ) — passed the Senate in a bipartisan vote earlier this week.” 

​September 7, 2016

Behavioral Health IT vendor Netsmart still wants the Senate to take up the HELP Committee’s Mental Health bill (S. 2680) during its four-week September work period with the hopes it will give a chance to debate Senator Sheldon Whitehouse’s legislation to extend meaningful use incentives to mental health providers. See the Politico article here.

June 21, 2016
"Neither the Medicaid-Medicare Dual Eligible Demos, nor the current Medicare ACO program, can function properly without integrating mental health and addiction providers. To do that, you need behavioral health IT incentives." See the Politico story here.

June 2, 2016​
In a letter to Energy and Commerce leadership, the behavioral health IT community is urging House lawmakers  to use “such sums” authorization language to ease funding concerns of expanding the meaningful use program to mental health providers. See the Politico story here.

March 16, 2016
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse is giving the get-behavioral-health-into-meaningful-use play a shot, with an amendment that calls for a five-year pilot. See the Politico article here.

March 16, 2016
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse said he plans to offer an amendment extending meaningful use to practitioners in the field when the bill hits the floor. See the Politico article here.

​March 11, 2016
​Sen. Whitehouse (D-R.I.) is expected to offer an amendment that would create a $250 million pilot program offering incentive payments to mental health providers that adopt electronic health records. Seen the Bloomberg BNA article here.

March 10, 2016
The Behavioral Health IT Coalition is encouraging the Senate HELP Committee to include a pilot program for adding mental health providers to the meaningful use program in legislation the committee will markup next week. See the Politico article here.

​June 23, 2015 
BHIT Coalition responds to the Senate Finance Committee letter in regards to the formation of a chronic care working group. 

​​​June 9, 2015

CQ Roll Call: "Consensus on Broad Mental Health Bill Remains Elusive" article.

June 4, 2015

Politico Pro article regarding Congressman Tim Murphy's new legislation quotes Netsmart's Kevin Scalia

June 4, 2015

Congressman Tim Murphy [R-PA-18] reintroduces The Helping Families in Mental Crisis Act. Click to review the BHIT Coalition press release

February 9, 2015

BHIT Coalition comments on the ONC's 2015-2020 Strategic Plan. Click to review the comment letter and press release. Also see the MHLG's letter in response to the Strategic Plan here

December 3, 2014

Pittsburg, PA Radio Station 1020 KDNA Interview with BHIT Coalition Advocate Rebecca Smith.  Listen here.

December 9, 2014

PoliticoPro:  "Behavioral Health Group Seeks Change in CMS Rule" article 

December 8, 2014

CQ Roll Call: "Congress' HITECH Act and Good Patient Care" Article by Netsmart Technologies' Kevin Scalia

December 3, 2014

Washington, DC's WNEW's 99.1 Radio coverage:  "BHIT Coalition Addresses US Senate"

Listen Here for Segment 1

Listen Here for Segment 2

December 3, 2014

PoliticoPro: "Behavioral Health Advocates Renew The Push for Access to Meaningful Use" Article

October 2, 2014

PoliticoPro: "Behavioral Health IT to Congress- Don't Forget About Us" Article

August 12, 2014

PoliticoPro: "Behavioral Health IT writes Congress on Reforms" Article

July 22, 2014

PoliticoPro: "Mental Health Providers Plead for Meaningful Use Payments" Article

July 22, 2014

Triblive: "Jefferson Hospital Doctor Serves as Panelist for Mental Health Legislation" Article

November 23, 2013

Portsmouth Times: "Portman Supports Behavioral Health Bill" Article