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February 21, 2024 Clouds | 25°F
The 193rd General Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts

AN ACT ESTABLISHING THE BEHAVIORAL HEALTH TRUST FUND AND THE BEHAVIORAL HEALTH ADVISORY COMMISSION

Whereas, The deferred operation of this act would tend to defeat its purpose, which is to establish forthwith the Behavioral Health Trust Fund and the behavioral health advisory commission, therefore it is hereby declared to be an emergency law, necessary for the immediate preservation of the public convenience.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Court assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows:
SECTION 1.  (a) There shall be a Behavioral Health Trust Fund that shall be administered by the secretary of health and human services, who shall expend the funds, subject to appropriation, for the purpose of addressing barriers to the delivery of an equitable, culturally-competent, affordable and clinically-appropriate continuum of behavioral health care and services. There shall be credited to the fund all amounts that are transferred, or authorized to be transferred thereto, or directed to be deposited therein, and all amounts received as gifts, grants or contributions for the purposes of the fund. Any money remaining in the fund at the close of a fiscal year shall not revert to the General Fund.

(b)(1)  There shall be a behavioral health advisory commission to make recommendations to the general court on the disbursement of the money in the fund. The commission shall consist of: the chairs of the joint committee on mental health, substance use and recovery, who shall serve as co-chairs; the chairs of the joint committee on racial equity, civil rights, and inclusion; 3 members appointed by the senate president who work in the behavioral health field, 1 of whom shall be a professional in the field of children’s mental health and 1 of whom shall be a professional in the field of behavioral health services in correctional settings; 3 members appointed by the speaker of the house of representatives who work in the behavioral health field, 1 of whom shall be a professional in the field of children’s mental health and 1 of whom shall be a professional in the field of behavioral health services in correctional settings; 1 member appointed by the minority leader of the senate; 1 member appointed by the minority leader of the house of representatives; the secretary of health and human services; the president of the Massachusetts Association for Mental Health, Inc. or a designee; the president of the Association for Behavioral Healthcare, Inc. or a designee; the executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Massachusetts, Inc. or a designee; the executive director of Massachusetts Association of Behavioral Health Systems, Inc. or a designee; the executive director of Massachusetts Organization for Addiction Recovery, Inc. or a designee; the executive director of Massachusetts chapter of the National Association of Social Workers, Inc. or a designee; the president of the Massachusetts Health and Hospital Association, Inc. or a designee; and 2 members appointed by the governor, 1 of whom shall have expertise in developing behavioral health workforce training education and 1 of whom shall have expertise in addressing disparities in access to mental and behavioral health care for populations disproportionately experiencing barriers to care.

(2)  The commission shall identify and assess: (i) current behavioral health workforce challenges including, but not limited to: (A) existing workforce pipeline issues; (B) emerging workforce needs; (C) the feasibility of grant, scholarship and other pipeline development programs that mitigate the financial burden of entering and progressing up the behavioral health workforce pipeline to support workers pursuing tertiary degrees and for those who do not require advanced degrees including, but not limited to, mental health workers, sitters, nurses, social workers, psychologists, other masters’ level licensed behavioral health providers and psychiatrists; (D) programs to ensure retention of current behavioral health workforce; and (E) the availability of trauma-informed supports and services for behavioral health practitioners and related staff; (ii) factors that create or perpetuate disparities in mental and behavioral health care including but not limited to race, ethnicity, language, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and barriers to access for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer individuals; (iii) economic barriers to treatment; (iv) access to early intervention services; (v) diversion for people with mental illness and substance use disorder from the criminal legal system; (vi) access to community-based services; (vii) the feasibility of increasing behavioral health competency of staff in both behavioral health settings and settings where there are frequent interactions with patients with behavioral health diagnoses through training to increase competency for sitters, mental health workers, emergency department personnel, medical-surgical staff that frequently interact with psychiatric boarders and other caregivers in de-escalation tactics, crisis management, rapid response, psychiatric diagnoses and other related topics; (viii) diversion from the juvenile justice system; (ix) treatment for people with mental illness or substance use disorder who are incarcerated or under supervision by the criminal justice system; (x) the feasibility of training programs to increase the behavioral health competency for workforce in nonhospital settings including, but not limited to, group homes and skilled nursing facilities, to allow patients to receive baseline behavioral health services where they are living; and (xi) any other factors the commission deems relevant for addressing barriers to the delivery of an equitable, culturally-competent, affordable and clinically-appropriate continuum of behavioral health care and services. Based on the commission’s findings, the commission shall make recommendations for the disbursement of money in the fund. The commission’s recommendations shall prioritize the needs of communities disproportionately impacted by the 2019 novel coronavirus pandemic and comply with rules and guidance pertaining to eligible uses of coronavirus state and local fiscal recovery funds under the federal American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, 42 U.S.C. 802(c).

(3)  The commission shall submit its findings and recommendations to the clerks of the senate and house of representatives, the joint committee on mental health, substance use and recovery and the senate and house committees on ways and means not later than June 1, 2022.

(c)  Annually, not later than October 1, the secretary shall file a report with the clerks of the senate and house of representatives, the joint committee on mental health, substance use and recovery and the house and senate committees on ways and means on the fund’s activities, which shall include, but not be limited to: (i) the source and amount of funds received; and (ii) the expenditures made from the fund and the purposes of such expenditures.

SECTION 2.  This act shall take effect as of December 13, 2021.

House of Representatives, May 26, 2022.
This Bill having been returned by His Excellency the Governor with his objections thereto in writing (see House 4709) has been passed by the  House of Representatives, notwithstanding  said objections, two-thirds of the House (154 yeas to 0 nays) having agreed to pass the same.
Sent to the Senate for its action.

Ronald Mariano, Speaker.
Steven T. James, Clerk.

Senate, May 26, 2022.
Passed by the Senate, notwithstanding the objections of His Excellency the Governor, two-thirds of the members present (40 yeas to 0 nays) having approved the same.

Karen E. Spilka, President.
Michael D. Hurley, Clerk.

Office of the Secretary.