On June 16, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a proposed rule that would establish for the first time standards that community mental health centers (CMHCs) must meet in order to participate in the Medicare program.

The proposed conditions of participation (CoPs) include: Establishing qualifications for staff and provider operations; establishing treatment teams that would coordinate services and develop treatment plans; creating quality programs; notifying clients of their rights; and investigating and reporting rights violations.

The agency said that in setting forth these new standards, they will be able to protect the more than 25,000 Medicare beneficiaries who receive care at CMHCs every year. CMS Administrator Donald Berwick stated: “Memorializing the best practices of behavioral health care in new Medicare standards gives us the unique opportunity to be sure that safe and effective client-focused care is available to all clients in all communities.”

In order to allow CMHCs adequate time to educate staff and implement the new of CoPs, CMS intends to delay the effective date for one year following its release of a final rule.

Those wishing to submit comments on the proposed rule to CMS must do so by August 16.