Speaker Leads Call to Improve Mental and Physical Health Laws
6/1/2021
Joins committee chairs in bipartisan effort to improve overall health outcomes

HARRISBURG – As Pennsylvanians recover from a once-in-a-generation pandemic and the opioid crisis continues to impact countless communities, existing health care laws actually hinder providers’ abilities to treat the overall health of patients.

Currently, mental health and physical health information cannot be fully shared among providers in Pennsylvania.

Speaker of the House Bryan Cutler (R-Lancaster) and Reps. Frank Farry (R-Bucks), Tina Pickett (R-Bradford/Sullivan/Susquehanna) and Mike Schlossberg (D-Lehigh) are introducing legislation 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.

“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,” Cutler 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.”

To achieve this goal, the package 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 existing mental health and substance abuse laws were written in the 1970s,” said Farry, chair of the House Human Services Committee. “We know so much more now about treating the whole person. These changes are overdue, but with so many of our friends and neighbors struggling to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, we cannot wait any longer to give health care providers all of the tools they need to do their jobs.”

“Most states have already proven the benefits of sharing data between providers,” said Pickett, chair of the House Insurance Committee. “It will improve inappropriate prescribing of certain medications, provide new ways to follow cash transactions for opioid prescriptions and ensure providers can track opioid prescriptions not submitted to insurers. These are all important steps in the fight to save lives from opioid addiction.”

“There is no question about it: One of the greatest barriers to getting high quality mental health treatment can be addressed by simple changes to insurance laws,” Schlossberg said. “This package would help move us in the right direction when it comes to making sure that people with mental illness can get the treatment they need.”

The proposed changes would bring Pennsylvania in line with the majority of states that already share this information and are seeing improved patient outcomes.

Speaker Bryan Cutler
100th Legislative District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives