Legislative Update: 5-10-21

by Devon Green
Vice President of Government Relations
Have you ever done a hike with a false peak? You think you’ve reached the top only to realize there is more to climb. The end of the legislative session is in sight now that legislators have been assigned to a conference committee to hammer out the remaining differences between the House and the Senate on the budget bill, but with talk of a veto session and a possible October session to determine spending of federal funds, the view from mid-May could be more mountain.    

Last Week

Changes to Current Mental Health Law: The House concurred with the Senate on H.46, which requires inpatient psychiatric units to inform patients with voluntary legal status that they may be treated on a locked unit and that a requested discharge may be deferred if their treating provider considers them a person in need of treatment. It also requires hospitals to provide information on assisting with changing a status from involuntary to voluntary with a patient’s posted notice of rights. This bill will now go to the governor.
Interstate Practice Telehealth Work Group: Another bill heading for the governor’s desk for signature is H.104, which will take lessons learned from the COVID-19 public health emergency and evaluate ways to promote the use of telehealth across state lines, including telehealth licenses, waiver of licenses, national licensure compacts and regional reciprocity agreements.
Health Equity: The House also concurred with the Senate on H.210, which requires the Vermont Department of Health (VDH) to analyze health equity data to detect health care disparities and creates a Health Equity Advisory Commission to:
  • Provide guidance on establishing an Office of Health Equity by January 1, 2023
  • Advise state agencies on the impact of new and existing policies on individuals who are Black, Indigenous and Persons of Color, individuals who are LGBTQ and individuals with disabilities
  • Advise the Vermont Department of Health and the legislature on funding decisions related to health equity
  • Distribute grants for projects that improve the lives of individuals who are Black, Indigenous and Persons of Color, individuals who are LGBTQ and individuals with disabilities
  • Advise the legislature on efforts to improve cultural competency in the health care system through training and continuing education requirements

This Week

Interstate Nurse Licensure Compact: The House will take up S.48, the Interstate Nurse Licensure Compact after the House Ways and Means Committee amended the bill to ensure that future rate increases would only happen to compact licensees and only after legislative approval. VAHHS supports this bill because it is helpful in addressing our current health care workforce crisis.
Children waiting for mental health treatment: Last week, the Department of Mental Health presented its plan for addressing access to care and treatment for children in mental health crisis to the House Health Care Committee. VAHHS also presented its latest data on children waiting in emergency departments for mental health treatment and advocated for more resources across the continuum of mental health care for alternatives to EDs, regulatory flexibility, and statewide efforts around data collection and telepsychiatry. This week, the House Health Care Committee will further discuss short term and long term solutions.