Oct. 26, 2021
Bipartisan effort to improve mental and physical health passes committee vote
HARRISBURG – As Pennsylvanians recover from a once-in-a-generation pandemic and the opioid crisis continues to impact countless communities, a package of bills to improve health care providers’ abilities to treat the overall health of patients received bipartisan support today in the House Human Services Committee.
“My former colleagues in the medical field have known for years mental and behavioral health have a direct impact on a person’s physical health,” Speaker of the House Bryan Cutler (R-Lancaster) said. “These proposals would ensure health care providers have access to all of the information they need to appropriately treat their clients and patients, making our communities healthier and saving lives.”
Under current law, mental health and physical health information cannot be fully shared among providers in Pennsylvania. The proposed changes would bring Pennsylvania in line with the majority of states that already share this information and are seeing improved patient outcomes.
Bill sponsors Cutler and Reps. Frank Farry (R-Bucks), Tina Pickett (R-Bradford/Sullivan/Susquehanna) and Mike Schlossberg (D-Lehigh) introduced the package to improve existing mental health, physical health, and substance abuse laws to ensure this information is available to providers so all those involved can treat the entire patient.
House Bills 1561
(Farry) and 1563
(Cutler) would amend the Mental Health Procedures Act and the Drug and Alcohol Abuse Control Act to allow for sharing of patient information among providers, facilities and insurers. The changes would also meet existing Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) requirements to ensure patient confidentiality.
“These simple changes are commonsense steps to ensure providers can treat the whole person, and know exactly what challenges that person is facing,” Cutler added. “It’s been decades since changes were made to mental health and substance abuse laws, and experts in the field know we have come a long way in how we treat patients. It is time our laws reflect that as well.”
The legislation now awaits consideration by the full House.
Speaker Bryan Cutler
100th Legislative District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Mike Straub