Budget — The General Assembly continued efforts during the 2019 legislative session to improve healthcare services for those suffering from mental health issues, including substance abuse. The 2019-2020 budget provides $5 million for the state’s behavioral health safety net to serve an additional 7,000 uninsured adults with serious mental illness. It also includes $6.2 million in increased operational costs at the state’s four regional mental health institutes and $3 million for a new Creating Homes Initiative (CHI) for regional housing facilitators, as well as additional seed money for recovery housing for those living with substance use disorder.
Transportation Plan — The budget also includes $4 million for grants to assist law enforcement agencies in developing a plan to transport individuals with developmental disabilities, mental illness, or serious emotional disturbance who are picked up by police officers due to a variety of reasons, such as a mental breakdown. For many years, law enforcement officials have transported persons suffering from these conditions after they are picked up by patrol officers. When this occurs, the officers are required to use handcuffs and shackles, put them in the back of the police car, and take them to the hospital for evaluation. Often, these officers are required to take them to another facility for treatment, which is costly for local governments and traumatic for the individual. The legislation sets up a grant program to assist law enforcement agencies required to transport persons to hospitals and treatment resources with emergency mental health needs. It also allows law enforcement officials to elect to use telehealth services for evaluating the patient for admission to a health facility. Public Chapter 512, effective July 1st, 2019.
Telemedicine — Legislation was approved during the 2019 session improving access to mental health care services through the use of telemedicine. The bill permits mental health physicians to collaborate with advanced practice nurses and physician assistants who are employed at local community health centers, allowing them to arrange for required review of the patients charts and the required visitation via HIPAA-compliant electronic means, rather than at the site of the clinic. Telemedicine is particularly important in Tennessee’s rural communities where there is a shortage of mental health physicians. Public Chapter 183, effective April 23rd, 2019.
As always, I am truly humbled and honored to be your voice on Capitol Hill. If there is ever any issue I can assist with, please reach out to my office by calling 615-741-2190 or emailing me at email@example.com. I look forward to hearing your thoughts, ideas, concerns, and suggestions during the 111th General Assembly.