May. 26, 2022

HARRISBURG – Reducing delays in care for patients with behavioral health needs is the goal of legislation authored by Rep. Jim Struzzi (R-Indiana) that passed the House unanimously on Wednesday. House Bill 1644 now moves to the Senate for consideration.  

“We are in a serious, on-going mental health crisis in the Commonwealth,” Struzzi said. “Our hospitals are witnessing this crisis firsthand in their emergency rooms; however, acute care hospitals are not equipped to appropriately treat these individuals, let alone board them for days, weeks and months on end. This also places additional stress on healthcare workers who truly want to help these patients but lack the resources to do so. These patients and our hospital staff deserve better.”    

House Bill 1644, the Medicaid Care Transition Program Act, would create a Medicaid Care Transition Program to ensure hospitals, individual counties, the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (DHS), and managed care organizations will communicate and coordinate care. They would also be required to create uniform policies and procedures to assist in transitioning these individuals out of the emergency room and into appropriate care settings where they will get the help they need. 

Additionally, the legislation would require DHS to develop a standardized, timely process for placement of patients statewide who are enrolled in Medicaid and diagnosed with behavioral health or other long-term care needs. 

“In 2019, I sponsored House Resolution 268 that required the Joint State Government Commission to study behavioral health and healthcare in general,” added Struzzi. “Some recommendations from that study were used to create this bill. While we realize this will not address every concern highlighted in the study, the legislation is a step forward in creating a better system for access to mental health services.”

House Bill 1644 would implement accountability measures for Behavioral Health Medicaid Managed Care Organizations (BH-MCOs) by holding them responsible for the adequate level of and accessibility to health care they are being paid to provide for Medicaid patients. Specifically, the bill would:

Require BH-MCOs to devote resources to help hospitals find placements for individuals currently “boarded” in an emergency department or inpatient unit.

Require referral to DHS cases where placement is not found within 24 hours. In turn, DHS must work with the BH-MCO and other health care facilities until an appropriate placement is identified.

Permit DHS to, for the first time, track and measure the scope of this problem. Data from their study will be invaluable as we work together to solve these daunting issues during the long term.

Questions about this or any state government issue should be directed to Struzzi’s Indiana district office at 1-724-465-0220.

Representative Jim Struzzi
62nd Legislative District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Media Contact: Scott Little
717.260.6137 (office), 717.497.5937 (cell) /