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FAQs: CARES Act and Behavioral Health Care Providers

Apr 14th, 2020


The COVID-19 pandemic is impacting organizations such as yours in many ways, large and small. The recently passed CARES Act and other regulatory changes include a number of provisions intended for health care organizations. This FAQ includes resources that may be of help to you now and as you plan ahead.

What is the CARES Act?
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic sweeping the country, President Trump signed The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (the “CARES Act”) on March 27. One of the goals of the legislation is to mitigate some of the financial burden of the pandemic on healthcare institutions, including mental health clinics and their employees.

What are the Small Business Administration’s COVID-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loans?
These are very low interest loans that are already available to employers with 500 or fewer employees. Within three days of an application being approved, a $10,000 forgivable loan becomes available. Please click on the link for more information:

What is the Paycheck Protection Program?
This program directs $349 billion to support small employers so they do not have to lay off employees and can make rent payments. There are forgiveness protections if employers keep employees on staff. Please click on the link for more information: Paycheck Protection Program (

Was there any funding in the CARES Act for Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration?
Yes. Congress allocated emergency relief of $425 million for community behavioral organizations. For those employing more than 500 people and not eligible for small business loans, some of those SAMHSA dollars may be available. Further guidance is expected on how these funds will be distributed.

Was there any other funding for the health care industry?
Yes.Congress allocated funding for hospitals and other healthcare organizations facing reduced utilization. This $100 billion fund will be managed through Health and Human Services. Applicants will have to demonstrate need and reduction of services. We expect those funds to be available quickly.

What are states doing? Some states have indicated they plan to allocate funds to ensure health care providers facing shortfalls are made whole. However, we are awaiting information on what mechanism states will use to accomplish this. States will have access to unprecedented funds from federal matches and will have flexibility to use the funds as needed.

Was telehealth included in the CARES Act?
Yes. The new law relaxes the requirement that coverage be restricted to real-time audio-visual technology, opening the door to coverage for phone-based services. It also gives states greater flexibility with regard to Medicaid coverage to enable care providers to conduct initial assessments in a phone call. The new law relaxes the requirement that a care provider must have seen a patient in person within the past three years, and it gives Health and Human Services more leeway to relax statutory restrictions on telehealth services covered by Medicare.

Have there been other developments in telehealth?
Over the past several weeks the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services have issued telehealth waivers for Medicare. These waivers remove the Medicare limitations on telehealth only being authorized in rural areas, and remove restrictions on telehealth originating sites. For example, this allows a patient’s home to be an originating site.  HHS will waive penalties for HIPAA violations against health providers who serve patients in good faith through everyday communication technologies, such as FaceTime or Skype. The HHS Office of Inspector General will authorize health care providers to reduce or waive cost-sharing for telehealth visits paid by Medicare. The Drug Enforcement Administration has lifted some of the restrictions on prescribing of controlled substances through telehealth, along with relaxing the requirement that prescribing physicians register with the DEA for every state in which they operate.

Anything for CCBHCs?
Yes. The CARES Act includes an extension of funding for CCBHCs until November 30, 2020. The legislation expands by two the number of states eligible for CCBHC funding.

Where can I go for more information on the CARES Act and what it means for behavioral health organizations?
You can find additional details here:
Members of the National Council for Behavioral Health may also want to see the organization’s COVID-19 resources page here:

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