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Tuesday, May 30, 2023

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Florida faces lawsuits over its new election law, a medical board fines an Indiana doctor for speaking about a 10-year-old's abortion, and Minnesota advocates say threats to cut SNAP funds are off the mark.

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The White House and Speaker McCarthy gain support to pass their debt ceiling agreement, former President Donald Trump retakes the lead in a new GOP primary poll, and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is impeached.

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The growing number of "maternity care deserts" makes having a baby increasingly dangerous for rural Americans, a Colorado project is connecting neighbor to neighbor in an effort to help those suffering with mental health issues, and a school district in Maine is using teletherapy to tackle a similar challenge.

New Legislation Expands Mental-Health Provisions in MA

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Friday, August 19, 2022   

Legislation signed into law this month by Gov. Charlie Baker is expected to bring updates long overdue to mental-health services in Massachusetts.

The Mental Health Addressing Barriers to Care or ABC Act mandates insurance coverage for an annual mental-wellness exam and enforcing mental-health parity laws. It comes at a time when the need for mental-health services has been heightened by the pandemic.

The law also creates an online portal for Emergency Department visits or ED Boarding. Dr. Grace Chang, president of the Massachusetts Psychiatric Society, explained how this can be beneficial for acute mental-health needs.

"ED Boarding occurs when people present for acute care. They're assessed to require it, but then when there is a bed search made for the patient, there's no bed available," she said. "One of the important things is that we need real-time data, and maybe this real-time data can be used to inform admissions."

Chang said she thinks the provisions in the new law can't come soon enough. According to a recent Blue Cross/Blue Shield Foundation study, 35% of adults in the state reported needing behavioral-health care, but 57% said they either had difficulty getting appointments or did not get the care they needed because of other issues.

While Chang said she sees the bill as a step in the right direction, she cited more work to be done. Although this bill removes plenty of barriers to accessing behavioral-health services, she said she feels a different problem must be addressed - a shortage of professionals to provide those services.

"We've got to have more people who can work at all levels in the mental-health care treatment system. So, that's a major factor," she said. "I think that a number of proposals and initiatives are being discussed, and will be offered and implemented, such as loan forgiveness programs for training."

One reason for the shortage is what Chang described as a "pipeline issue" - training to become a mental-health professional takes almost a decade. However, she remains hopeful that the potential incentives will attract more people to the field.


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