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Hill Day Remarks From National Council President and CEO Chuck Ingoglia

OPENING REMARKS [approx. 1:01 pm EST]

Welcome to Hill Day at Home … our most important event of the year because this is how we make a difference … this is how we get things done … and this how we make our voices heard! I’m thrilled that you are with us today.

When we gathered virtually at last year’s Hill Day, we focused on a few policy priorities. And guess what? We were successful on several fronts.

In September 2020, Congress passed the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act, establishing 9-8-8 as the universal number to call when having a behavioral health crisis.

In December, the Crisis Stabilization and Community Reentry Act became law.

And since we last met, Congress appropriated $3 billion each for the Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment block grant and the Community Mental Health Services block grant. These are historical investments.

SAMHSA also received over $1 billion to fund Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic Expansion Grants. And billions more was awarded to federal agencies supporting mental health and substance use services, workforce education and training, suicide prevention and public education campaigns.

You come to Hill Day to make a difference and look at what we got done. What you do matters. And it matters this year too.

We have four legislative priorities for this year’s Hill Day.

Each of them represents an opportunity to build on the important work of the past and shape a better future.

It will come as no surprise to anyone that expanding the number of Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics operating nationwide is a top priority.

That’s why we are urging Congress to pass the bipartisan Excellence in Mental Health and Addiction Treatment Act. This legislation would allow any state that wants to, to participate in the CCBHC Medicaid demonstration and establish a payment rate that covers the real cost of expanding access.

Just as we are trying to build out the CCBHC program, we also want to ensure the newly created 988 number is built for success. To that end, our second priority is passage of legislation to support the crisis care continuum broadly and, specifically, ensure the successful build out of a nationwide 988 crisis response infrastructure.

And while we’ve definitely made progress in responding to the substance use epidemic in this country, much work remains. So our third priority area includes a number of bills that, if enacted, would substantially enhance the nation’s ability to provide substance use disorder treatment. We are advocating for The Medicaid Reentry Act, The Mainstreaming Addiction Treatment Act and The Medication Access and Training Expansion Act.

And last, but never least, we are advocating for legislation to address critical workforce shortages. The Mental Health Access Improvement Act allows marriage and family therapists and licensed mental health counselors to directly bill Medicare for their services. And the PEERS Medicare Act provides vital Medicare coverage of peer support services.

We have a lot of work ahead of us. And if you need a little inspiration, we’ve got some really incredible folks lined up to speak with you today, including one of the most important officials from the Biden Administration—Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, who is the Administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

We have so many other great speakers today that will go into detail on a number of important topics.

Later we will honor the recipients of our legislator of the year awards—this year our awards are going to two congressional champions, Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Representative Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania.

Also later, we will announce the 2021 Advocacy Leadership Awards and we thank Sunovion Pharmaceuticals for their support of this important award program.

Speaking of thanks, we are grateful to our 25 partner organizations that have worked with us to help make this day a success. Every year, organizations from across the field come together to present a mighty, unified voice and we know it makes a difference.

And with that, let me get out of the way. I am thrilled to welcome CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure to our Virtual Policy Institute.

CLOSING REMARKS [approx. 4:10 pm EST]

What an incredible day. And what an inspiring group of awardees. Congratulations James Ramos, Laurie Stolen, and Dr. Kanzoni [can-zone-knee] Asabigi [ah-sah-bee-g]. We extend our sincere appreciation to each of you for all your hard work and dedication to the cause.

As we wrap up this year’s Hill Day, we can learn so much from the examples of our award winners. They inspire us to create a better future.

Around the National Council we have a saying: Hill Day is every day. But what does that mean? It means we must advocate for our priorities every day, not just once a year.

So we implore every single one of you to embrace your role as an advocate, to reach out to your members of Congress and share with them what matters most to you and your organization.

Our shared goal is to get the resources needed to deliver high quality, evidence-based prevention, treatment and recovery services to all who need them. We know this is necessary to build a future that supports the wellbeing of the nation.

As an organization, we have renewed our focus on wellbeing.

Wellbeing is thriving regardless of a mental health or substance use challenge. We believe mental wellbeing is about everyone being able to reach their full human potential. It is more than just the absence of symptoms. It is about the presence of resilience, strength, and recovery. Wellbeing recognizes the importance of preventive and integrated health care. And it’s a powerful reflection of who we are and what the proud members of this organization do on a daily basis.

Wellbeing also goes beyond the delivery of mental health and substance use services. True wellbeing requires our organizations and our communities to embrace all people … to dismantle harmful structures and become champions of justice and equity. Health and wellbeing do not exist in a vacuum, and we must work to heal the entire system.

So where do we go from here. I challenge each and every one of you to be a powerful advocate … and I hope that you will rally your colleagues, your friends, families, and neighbors in this shared cause. Make sure that your members of Congress hear from as many constituents as possible. They need to hear that mental health and substance use care is essential and that provider organizations need the necessary resources to enable their communities to be healthy and strong.

So let’s get to work.

Let’s make sure Congress hears from us—phone calls, emails, social media—whatever way works for you.

And let’s embrace this historic opportunity to improve the health and wellbeing of the nation. Thank you for all you do and let’s go make a difference—for our organizations and our communities, for the people who depend on us, and for the nation as whole.

Source: National Council for Mental Wellbeing