Behavioral Health Integration 2013 in Review

2013 has been a very good year for Behavioral Health Integration Blog! Our popular Integrated Care Thought Leader Series began this year, providing insights into the minds of some of the most prominent thought leaders in integrated care, including Dr. Alexander “Sandy” Blount, Dr. Benjamin Druss, Larry Fricks, and Dr. Benjamin Miller. Stay tuned in 2014! We have several excellent integrated care thought leaders lined up, to provide their expert perspectives on whole health and integrating behavioral health and primary care for enhancing health outcomes, reducing healthcare costs, and improving access to healthcare.

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 4,800 times in 2013. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 4 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Historic Parity Ruling Provided at Long Last

“We know so much more today, and yet the problems are still very much the same, with one exception: Recovery.  Twenty five years ago, we did not dream that people might someday be able actually to recover from mental illnesses.  Today it is a very real possibility.”  ~Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter

History was made today at the Carter Center in Atlanta. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius made a long-awaited announcement at the 29th Annual Rosalynn Carter Mental Health Policy SymposiumHealth insurance companies must cover mental illness and substance abuse just as they cover physical diseases. Secretary Sebelius’s speech  may be read here in its entirety.

In 2008, Congress passed the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act, marking an important step forward in efforts to end discrimination in insurance coverage for mental health and substance use disorder treatment. While the act closed several loopholes left by the 1996 Mental Health Parity Act, it has taken five years to finalize the law. The 2008 act lacked clarity on how parity is to be achieved, particularly when treatment involves intensive care at physician offices or long-term hospital stays.

Today’s ruling provides clarification on how parity applies to residential treatments and outpatient care. It also ensures that copayments, deductibles, and limits on mental health benefits are not more restrictive or provide less coverage than those for medical and surgical benefits, including geographic or facility limitations. These have been tremendous barriers to treatment thus far and represent a significant triumph for the behavioral health community.

“This is the largest expansion of behavioral health coverage in a generation,” declared Secretary Sebelius. Addressing the need for adequate care for mental health has been a goal for more than 50 years, when President John F. Kennedy signed the Community Mental Health Center Act of 1963 into law.

At long last, treatment for behavioral health disorders is regarded as equal to other types of healthcare. This represents a significant achievement in behavioral health and should contribute to the ongoing effort to reduce the stigma. Millions fail to follow up with needed treatment because of stigma. With this final ruling and with movement toward integrated care, we will finally be able to improve access.

What will the world be like when people begin to actually receive that needed treatment?

John F. Kennedy’s Community Mental Health Act of 1963: 50th Anniversary

Today marks the 50th anniversary of the date that President John F. Kennedy signed the 1963 Community Mental Health Act into law. It was to be the last before his death on 11/22/63. The Act represents a monumental turning point in the treatment of psychiatric disorders. President Kennedy’s call to action in 1963 was based on a belief that all Americans – including those with mental illnesses, intellectual disabilities, and addictions – have a right to lead dignified lives and to share in the benefits of our society. Patrick Kennedy, nephew of President Kennedy and former U.S. Representative of Rhode Island, is steadfast in his efforts to continue this important work via the Kennedy Forum.

Act of October 31, 1963 “Mental Retardation Facilities and Community Mental Health Centers Construction Act of 1963”, Public Law 88-164, 77 STAT 282, “to provide assistance in combating mental retardation through grants for construction of research centers and grants for facilities for the mentally retarded and assistance in improving mental health through grants for construction of community mental health centers, and for other purposes.”, 10/31/1963 (Figure 1 below)

History of Psychiatric Treatment

Figure 1: Mental Retardation and Community Mental Health Centers Construction Act of 1963

Early attempts to treat mental illness are thought to date back to 5000 B.C. or earlier, based on the discovery of trephine skulls. A series of barbaric practices followed for millennia. It is suspected that the first asylums were established around the sixteenth century. These early facilities offered no real treatment despite their primitive attempts at cures, consisting of the use of leeches, purges, barbaric contraptions, and the use of chains and other restraints. Conditions gradually began to improve by the mid 1800s thanks to efforts led by humanitarians such as Dorothea Dix. Treatment reform in the asylums offered a more humane approach to the care of people with mental illness.

New treatment options followed in the early twentieth century, including psychoanalysis, introduced by Austrian neurologist, Sigmund Freud, and electroconvulsive therapy, introduced by Italian neuropsychiatrists, Ugo Cerletti and Lucio Bini. Psychopharmacology followed, arguably providing the single most significant change in treatment to date. A former colleague, psychiatrist, Dr. John Wolaver, remarked that when Thorazine was introduced in the psychiatric hospitals, the facilities were suddenly calm and quiet for the first time. It seemed to be a miracle cure. Psychopharmacology provided the next necessary step that led to deinstitutionalization.

The introduction of the Mental Retardation and Community Mental Health Centers Construction Act of 1963, Public Law 88-164, a bold new effort,  forever changed the face of mental health treatment. Prior to this, it was not uncommon for individuals with behavioral health conditions to be hospitalized for many years; hundreds of thousands lived their lives in institutions and were buried on the grounds. Unfortunately, this deinstitutionalization effort fell short of its goal. The USA Today report, Kennedy’s Vision for Mental Health Never Realized, takes a candid look at this.

Figure 2 below illustrates the decrease in inpatient treatment between 1950 and 1995. As the psychiatric hospitals decreased in size, the homeless population grew. The jails and prisons began to fill with the individuals with behavioral health conditions. According to the 10/24/13 article, Why Are The Three Largest Mental Health Care Providers Jails? published by NewsOne:  The three largest mental health providers in the nation are the following jails: Cook County in Illinois, Los Angeles County and Rikers Island in New York. 

Figure 2: Deinstitutionalization

Integrated Care

Many thought-leaders believe that we have embarked upon another pivotal point in mental health (or more broadly, behavioral health) treatment. Mental Health: A Report of the Surgeon General published in 1999 called for the integration of behavioral health and primary care. And the 2006 NASMHPD report, Morbidity and Mortality in People with Serious Mental Illness has prompted the movement toward a whole health approach to treatment that integrates behavioral health and primary healthcare. This promising trend offers hope for improved access for individuals who live with mental health and/or substance use disorders, improved health outcomes, and controlling healthcare spending.

Let us work together to address health conditions wherever the individual presents for treatment. Healthcare must be redefined to include behavioral health. By removing the healthcare silos, providers will begin to recognize and treat the comorbid conditions in their patients. Mind-body integration improves patient outcomes and reduces costs.

Integrated care is necessary for improving the lives of of those who might have spent his or her life chained in a dungeon centuries ago. It is a key element in our efforts to achieve the Triple Aim.

Celebrate Mental Illness Awareness Week, World Mental Health Day, and National Depression Screening Day

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Celebrate World Mental Health Day 2013

This is Mental Illness Awareness Week and today has been designated as both World Mental Health Day and National Depression Screening Day. Social media has numerous posts this week promoting mental health awareness and related topics as we try to educate the general public. We strive for increased awareness of the importance of good mental health as well as the challenges related to the stigma surrounding mental illness.

Integrating mental health and substance use disorder treatment with primary healthcare provides the opportunity to both increase awareness and decrease the stigma associated with behavioral health issues. Integrated care helps to improve access, reduce costs, and improve outcomes. Integrated care is better care!

In 1990, the U.S. Congress established the first full week of October as Mental Illness Awareness Week (MIAW) in recognition of the National Alliance on Mental Illness’s (NAMI) efforts to raise mental illness awareness. Since then, mental health advocates across the country have joined with others in their communities to sponsor activities, large or small, for public education about mental illness.

Today, 10/10/13, is designated as World Mental Health Day. This year’s theme is “Mental Health and Older Adults.” The day is celebrated at the initiative of the World Federation of Mental Health (WFMH) and the World Health Organization (WHO) supports this initiative through raising awareness on mental health issues using its strong relationships with the Ministries of health and civil society organizations across the globe.

Today is also National Depression Screening Day. National Depression Screening Day raises awareness and screens people for depression and anxiety disorders. NDSD is the nation’s oldest voluntary, community-based screening program that gives access to a validated screening questionnaire and provides referral information for treatment. More than half a million people each year have been screened for depression since 1991.

Let us work together to promote good mental health locally and around the world.

The Role of Integrated Care in Mental Health: Mental Health Blog Day 2013

Blog for MH 2013

I’m happy to be participating in blogging for mental health today. I’m joining in on this year’s blog party because mental health awareness is so important. Each mental health blogger has a unique perspective, addressing important topics such as awareness, recovery, wellness, public policy, services, co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders, etc., providing a personal, professional, or business perspective – or any combination of the three. These interesting and informative mental health blogs will provide an abundance of good reading for blog connoisseurs today!

Integrated care, a whole-health approach to healthcare, plays a very important role in mental health. This perspective has been gaining more and more attention over the past decade or so. It is not uncommon for people who receive mental health treatment to have little or no coordination of services with their primary care provider. Conversely, many people seeking primary care services have unmet mental health and/or substance use disorder treatment needs. This lack of coordination frequently results in sub-par outcomes, yet is often much more expensive as a result of duplicate or counter-indicated procedures and treatment. Lack of coordination results in costly emergency department visits, providing episodic treatment rather than a much more effective chronic care regimen and focus on prevention.

In my last post, I suggested that Integrated Care Awareness Day be recognized during Mental Health Month. As we increase awareness of the need to focus on healthcare in a holistic way, we begin to change the perception of mental health, not only for healthcare providers and policy-makers, but also for the public at large. Through improving access to services, controlling healthcare costs, and through tracking and improving health outcomes, we as a society can transition toward a wellness approach in healthcare.

Access to Services

Stigma is a huge barrier to receiving mental health services. Integrated care allows people to access services through mental health providers or primary care providers. They have the choice to receive mental health services where they are most comfortable.

Controlling Healthcare Costs

Coordination of care and focus on prevention help to control overall healthcare spending. The Affordable Care Act has provided the opportunity for changing the way that healthcare is delivered. Medicaid Health Homes are an example of this.

Improving Health Outcomes

Making use of health information technology enables providers to track outcomes, develop disease registries, and to share information for enhancing the coordination of care. As a result, people have improved health outcomes. They are healthier.

I hope you will stop by again soon. The next several posts to come will be a Thought Leader Series, a conversation with the visionary leaders who are instrumental in developing integrated care through research, policy, practice, and their steadfast passion for improving the lives of so many.

Happy Mental Health Blog Day 2013!

May is National Mental Health Awareness Month: Let’s Include Integrated Care Awareness Day

On 4/30/2013, President Obama became the first president to sign a proclamation declaring May as National Mental Health Awareness Month. “As a nation, it is up to all of us to know the signs of mental health issues and lend a hand to those who are struggling,” he said. “Shame and stigma too often leave people feeling like there is no place to turn. We need to make sure they know that asking for help is not a sign of weakness—it is a sign of strength.” (Click here for a full copy of the Presidential Proclamation – National Mental Health Awareness Month, 2013.) This endorsement and recognition are important steps toward acceptance of mental health. However, mental health and physical health are inseparable. And as more healthcare providers provide integrated services, issues of shame and stigma are reduced, thus creating an environment in which asking for help becomes less difficult. The Affordable Care Act has provided numerous opportunities for the integration of behavioral health and primary healthcare.

Mental Health Awareness Month began in 1949 through the vision of Mental Health America to raise awareness about mental illness and the need for services. This year’s theme is Pathways to Wellness:

Key Messages

  1. Wellness – it’s essential to living a full and productive life. It’s about keeping healthy as well as getting healthy.
  2. Wellness involves a set of skills and strategies that prevent the onset or shorten the duration of illness and promote recovery and well-being. Wellness is more than just the absence of disease.
  3. Wellness is more than an absence of disease. It involves complete general, mental and social well-being. And mental health is an essential component of overall health and well-being. The fact is our overall well-being is tied to the balance that exists between our emotional, physical, spiritual and mental health.
  4. Whatever our situation, we are all at risk of stress given the demands of daily life and the challenges it brings-at home, at work and in life. Steps that build and maintain well-being and help us all achieve wellness involve a balanced diet, regular exercise, enough sleep, a sense of self-worth, development of coping skills that promote resiliency, emotional awareness, and connections to family, friends and community.
  5. These steps should be complemented by taking stock of one’s well-being through regular mental health checkups and screenings. Just as we check our blood pressure and get cancer screenings, it’s a good idea to take periodic reading of our emotional well-being.
  6. Fully embracing the concept of wellness not only improves health in the mind, body and spirit, but also maximizes one’s potential to lead a full and productive life. Using strategies that promote resiliency and strengthen mental health and prevent mental health and substance use conditions lead to improved general health and a healthier society: greater academic achievement by our children, a more productive economy, and families that stay together.

As we focus on the importance of good mental health, it’s also an opportune time for increasing awareness of the importance of focusing on whole health rather than segregating mental health and substance use disorder issues. Contrary to popular belief, mental health services are largely provided outside of the mental health system. According to the Milbank Memorial Fund report, Evolving Models of Behavioral Health Integration in Primary Care, as many as 70 percent of primary care visits stem from psychosocial issues. While patients typically present with a physical health complaint, data suggest that underlying mental health or substance abuse issues are often triggering these visits.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, Mental Illness Surveillance Among Adults in the United States Supplements 9/2/11 – 60(03);1-32:

Mental illness exacerbates morbidity from the multiple chronic diseases with which it is associated, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, asthma, epilepsy, and cancer (12–16). This increased morbidity is a result of lower use of medical care and treatment adherence for concurrent chronic diseases and higher risk for adverse health outcomes (17–20). Rates for injuries, both intentional (e.g., homicide and suicide) and unintentional (e.g., motor vehicle), are 2–6 times higher among persons with a mental illness than in the overall population (21,22). Mental illness also is associated with use of tobacco products and alcohol abuse (23).

May has 31 days, so perhaps we can designate one of the days in May as Integrated Care Awareness Day. A day set aside to bring awareness of the benefits of looking at one’s health as a whole rather than segregating mental health from physical health. With this year’s theme, Pathways to Wellness, it is an ideal time to increase awareness.

“The body must be treated as a whole and not just a series of parts.”
– Hippocrates (460 BC – 380 BC)

Challenges to Integrating Behavioral Health and Primary Care Services Revisited

One year ago a poll was published in the LinkedIn group, Behavioral Health Integration:

What is the greatest challenge for integrating behavioral health and primary care services?

The poll generated a tremendous amount of interest, both in voting on the poll and in comments. Much has happened in the healthcare industry in the past twelve months, changes that have an impact on the way behavioral health and primary care will be delivered in the future.

The greatest impact has come from the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) that was upheld by the Supreme Court of the United States on June 28, 2012. Though passed in 2010, the flurry of activity toward implementing began after the Supreme Court ruling. As states prepare for the 2014 implementation of the new health laws, more and more are agreeing to participation in the Medicaid Health Home plan.

Poll Results

As we near the end of the first quarter 2013, time is running out quickly for implementation. With integrated care playing a crucial role in health reform, the challenges for integrating healthcare services are more and more apparent. Revisiting the below results of the poll conducted one year ago, one has to wonder whether the perceived challenges remain the same among healthcare providers.

Poll results from LinkedIn group, Behavioral Health Integration 3/5/2012 - 3/5/2013

Poll results from LinkedIn group, Behavioral Health Integration
3/5/2012 – 3/5/2013

Finance and Billing

Poll responses indicated that sustainability issues related to finance and billing were the greatest challenge for integration efforts. While many providers have successfully overcome this barrier, it is no easy feat to develop a financially sustainable integrated services delivery system. Fortunately, the ACA created an optional Medicaid State Plan benefit for states to establish Health Homes to coordinate care for people with chronic conditions who receive Medicaid benefits. While only a handful signed on initially, there are currently 24 states and the District of Columbia who have elected to participate in the Medicaid Expansion. Fourteen states have elected not to participate; and 12 states remain undecided. (Click here for more information on where each state stands on ACA’s Medicaid expansion.)

States that are moving forward with Medicaid Health Homes are in the process of making adjustments to policies, billing, and service delivery to enable service providers to integrate behavioral health and primary care services, a requirement of Health Homes:

Health Homes providers will integrate and coordinate all primary, acute, behavioral health, and long-term services and supports to treat the whole person.” – Medicaid.gov

Partnership Issues

Regular visitors to this blog know that much has been published here about the partnership between behavioral health and primary care providers. This was ranked as second most challenging in the poll.

Why do so many people find partnership issues as challenging? It’s counterintuitive. Most providers approach the integration of behavioral health and primary care with a blind eye to the process of partnership development. It is assumed that the interpersonal aspects will fall into place. Unfortunately, it is far more likely that an integration effort will fail due to partnership issues than financial ones. They are not unlike other partnerships, requiring attention to building a strong foundation from the onset.

Here are additional resources:

Operations/Workflow Issues

All healthcare administrators acknowledge the importance of operations for successful service delivery. That’s why 15% of respondents to the poll indicated that this area is the greatest challenge. Once a smooth-running clinic takes on an entirely new service-line, a degree of disruption is inevitable. The workflow will likely be drastically different than the service providers and support staff have grown accustomed to. Of course, taking on a new service also means addressing the organization’s policies, regulatory requirements, physical space requirements, etc.

With a little careful planning and a LOT of patience, your new integrated clinic will be operating smoothly in no time. Click here for a useful integration planning checklist.

Workforce Issues

Seven percent of the respondents indicated that workforce is the greatest challenge. With the current shortage of primary care providers, nurses, and psychiatrists, it’s no wonder that this is of concern. Fortunately, programs for training about integrated care delivery are available, such as the University of Massachusetts Medical School’s Center for Integrated Primary Care, which offers three programs aimed at training healthcare providers for providing integrated services:

Health Information Technology Issues

Despite concerns over the dilemma of sharing health records for integrating behavioral health and primary care, health information technology garnered 5% of the responses. Fortunately vendors of electronic health records are working earnestly to develop products that allow for the seamless sharing of behavioral health and primary care records. (Click here for more information on the role of HIT in integrated healthcare.)

One Year Later

What are the greatest challenges to integrating behavioral health and primary care in 2013? What will be the challenges next year? Dare we suggest that in the near future there will no longer be challenges?

Additional Resources: