Behavioral Health Services

Part of LeadingAge's 2020 Policy Priorities

LeadingAge Advocacy Goals

  • Ensure that regulations and payment systems do not force older adults with mental and behavioral health conditions to fall between the cracks in service delivery systems.
  • Advocate for appropriate reimbursement rates for providers who serve people with mental and behavioral health comorbidities.
  • Promote evidence-based policies for behavioral and mental health services as well as substance use treatment for older adults.
  • Encourage quality measures related to behavioral health conditions be updated to include modernized clinical practice patterns.

The Issue

1 in 4 older adults experiences a mental disorder, such as depression. The number is expected to double to 15 million by 2030. Older adults with depressive symptoms and other behavioral conditions have poorer functioning compared to those with chronic medical conditions. Depression also increases the perception of poor health, the utilization of health care services, and costs. Older adults are also at increased risk of social isolation, particularly as they experience functional challenges, which make them less likely to connect with friends and family. Further complicating the adverse effects of substance use, older adults are more likely than people in other age groups to have chronic health conditions and to take prescription medication with potentially harmful interactions.

Advocacy Action 2020

116th Congress

  • Older Americans Act Reauthorization: We support the reauthorization of the Older Americans Act to include provisions focused on trauma-informed care, social isolation, suicide risk, and other behavioral health factors. The Dignity in Aging Act (H.R. 4334) has passed the House.
  • Medicare Part B Coverage for Mental Health: We are monitoring progress on the Mental Health Access Improvement Act of 2019 (S.286/H.R.945), a proposal to expand the types of providers allowed to provide mental health services through Medicare Part B.
  • Covering Social Workers Under Medicare: We are monitoring progress on the Improving Access to Mental Health Act (S.782/H.R.1533), a proposal to increase access to services provided by licensed clinical social workers in Medicare.

Executive Branch

  • Trauma-informed Care: We will continue to support the effective implementation of trauma-informed care, as required in skilled nursing facilities, but applicable across service settings.
  • SUPPORT Act Implementation: We will monitor the implementation of aspects of the Substance Use-Disorder Prevention that Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatment (SUPPORT) for Patients and Communities Act that relate to older adults and the exemptions for substance-use disorder telehealth services from specified requirements, such as geographic restrictions, under Medicare.
  • Use of Antipsychotics: We will work with federal and state regulators to ensure the appropriate allowances and safeguards for antipsychotic medications particularly in nursing home environments.

Actions You Can Take Now

  • Visit the Advocacy Action Center to let your representative and senators know that you support the expansion and preservation of mental health programs for older adults.
  • Host a Coffee Chat with Congress in your community to help your members of Congress understand how policies impact mental health services for residents/participants.
  • Mobilize with the Advocacy Champions toolkit and let your representatives and senators know you support more opportunities to ensure that older adults are able to access the mental health services they need.

Additional Resources