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.
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?
“When you look at people holistically and start valuing their mind-body resiliency, I think there is a level of excitement, and better outcomes.”
September is Recovery Month. This year’s theme is Join the Voices for Recovery: Together on Pathways to Wellness. It is very fitting that Larry Fricks is our featured Integrated Care Thought Leader this month, as he is one of the nation’s greatest leaders in peer-led services, wellness, and recovery. An amazing individual who has devoted his life to helping others, Mr. Fricks was gracious enough to his insights into the importance of whole health wellness and resiliency and the vital role of engaging with people who have the lived-experience to provide support through the process. He offered insight into the role that a whole health approach plays in improving health outcomes and managing wellness. Drawing from his own experiences, Mr. Fricks identified many factors that contribute to a person’s recovery process. Acknowledging that factors such as race, socioeconomic status, and personal support system play a crucial role: “I don’t think you can underestimate what social determinants do to break somebody down.”
I first met Mr. Fricks in 2000 in Rockford, Illinois. He was the keynote speaker at the Consumer Family Forum, addressing a group who receive behavioral health services, their families, and behavioral health professionals from across the state. His passion resonated among the 300+ attendees as he shared his personal recovery story, urging others to believe that recovery is possible. I vividly recall (and have frequently shared with others) a very moving story that he shared about an initiative that has grown to be The Gardens at Saint Elizabeths: A National Memorial of Recovered Dignity, honoring the hundreds of thousands of people who died and were buried in unmarked graves on the grounds of psychiatric hospitals…and were forgotten:
Larry Fricks:Their graves were decimated and desecrated and they have no markers and people didn’t care about maintaining their graves. They walked the Earth and they had a life. Mothers, husbands and wives, children. They had wonderful things happen, and they saw miracles, and they had heartbreak, and you’re just honoring that experience. I just really believe that the Memorial is drawing people that I never expected to draw…very inspiring.
Through the years, Mr. Fricks has traveled from state to state, providing inspiration to so many, sharing his vision, and leading the way to transforming the way behavioral health organizations provide services. He led the national initiative to include peer-led services as a core feature, and is now working with states to embed Peer Support Specialists and Family Peer Specialists in integrated healthcare efforts as well. He currently divides his time between his work with the Appalachian Consulting Group based in Georgia, and his work in Washington, DC, as Deputy Director with the SAMHSA-HRSA Center for Integrated Health Solutions which has included testifying at Congressional Hearings on Mental Health.
Larry Fricks: We now know that things like a social network and service to others are huge health and resiliency factors. People who are in service to others tend to be healthier and they tend to live longer. Also they tend to be more resilient toward relapse or illness. So my life striving to be in service to others to strengthen their health and maybe strengthen their skills in recovery has had the benefit of strengthening my own recovery.
While his earlier work has focused on the role of Peer Support in the recovery process, Mr. Fricks’s work has broadened the focus to include a whole health approach. With startling reports that people with serious behavioral health conditions are dying decades earlier on average than the general population, he led a team at the SAMHSA-HRSA Center for Integrated Health Solutions to create a training called Whole Health Action Management (WHAM) that is designed to address this disparity though self-management supported by peers. Mr. Fricks has great praise for the effort in Georgia to develop Peer Support, Wellness, and Respite Centers that are reducing hospitalizations.
Larry Fricks:Let me tell you about what excites me. Georgia has three of these Peer Support, Wellness, and Respite Centers and they’re going to open two more. I’m very excited about what’s going on in those centers. Basically, if you feel early warning signs of your illness, or your addiction, you can go to one of these peer respite centers where you have your own bedroom and you can stay up to seven nights, chill out, and you’re surrounded by peers trained holistically to support your wellness. I think it’s really cutting the need for more intense crisis services and hospitalizations. So I had a chance to actually pull a shift in one of them, I answered the warm line and experienced what it was like to provide healing support by simply listening, or maybe just ask a few quetions for deeper reflection like we are trained to do. These peer support wellness centers are returning us to whole health. Removing some of the stigma, giving us a sense of owning our recovery and being proactive, and really engaging peer support to be successful. Georgia is leading the nation. With three we had more than any state, and with five we’ll really be out in front.
What’s next on the horizon?
Larry Fricks: I’m really excited about epigenetics. On April 2 of this year, Time magazine had a cover story on curing cancer, and this whole science on epigenetics basically says DNA does not have the last say. There are mind-body resiliency factors and there’s more and more research on epigenetics. “Epi” means over and the epi is the cell structure over your genome, over the DNA. And what they’re saying here is: Things that you do, like what you eat and managing stress to stay well, it determine which genes switch on and switch off. And so being aware of this thing, if you look at the WHAM training, we include ten health and resiliency factors which we got from Dr. Greg Fricchione who used to run Mrs. Carter’s Mental Health Program [at the Carter Center], and now he’s director of the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine. These prevention doctors are big on something called the Relaxation Response, and so we’re looking at the things you can do to switch on and switch off gene markers; and they can impact the next generation.
And in parting:
I’m aware that there are just people and things that happen in your life that, if you’re open to it, you work on staying connected and having faith, your life can experience great meaning and purpose.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said “We’re all bound in a mutual destiny and I’m not all I can be until you’re all you can be, and you’re not all you can be until I’m all I can be.” We should be about connection. We should be about cooperation, and there’s a spiritual power to that, and when you’re open to it, positive things just seem to happen. And you’re inspired by it.
Sometimes you want to shake your head and say, “Oh my gosh, why don’t I have more faith?”
“That’s the next direction that [organizations] need to go, bringing substance abuse back into the discussion. We need to go past just the integration of primary care and mental health care to a more Whole Person Care.”
It has been my pleasure to talk with Dr. Benjamin Druss for this edition of the Integrated Care Thought Leader Series. Having had the privilege to work with Dr. Druss on various integrated care projects over the past few years, I have come to respect not only his keen insight into what’s needed beyond the horizon for the care of people with behavioral health disorders, but the compassion and dedication he brings. His humility and brilliance are evident upon introduction; he’s a true visionary. Dr. Druss, my mentor and my friend, has provided inspiration to me in my work and outlook on the world of healthcare, integration, and beyond.
Dr. Druss, Dr. Silke von Esenwein, and their colleagues at Emory University are currently conducting an exciting NIMH research trial, The Health Outcomes Management and Evaluation (HOME) Study. As described on the website clinicaltrials.gov: There is an urgent need to develop practical, sustainable approaches to improving medical care for persons treated in community mental health settings, this study will test a novel approach for improving mental health consumers based on a partnership model between a Community Mental Health Center and a Community Health Center. When this study is completed, it will provide a model for a medical home for persons with severe mental illness that is clinically robust, and organizationally and financially sustainable.
Dr. Druss received his bachelor’s degree from Swarthmore College in 1985, earned his medical degree from New York University in 1989 and later his master’s in public health from Yale University in 1995.He is also board certified in psychiatry. He trained as a resident in general internal medicine at Rhode Island Hospital and in psychiatry at Yale University School of Medicine. Click here for more information about Dr. Benjamin Druss
Advancement in integrated care through the years
Dr. Druss was one of the first to address the physical health concerns among people with serious mental illness and substance use disorders, particularly among the public sector populations in urban regions. During our discussion on integrated care, he addressed areas of change over the past 18 years that has had the greatest impact on the advancement of healthcare for people with serious mental illness. He described the world of Health Information Technology as a frontier that, over the past 10 years, has resulted in changing policies and procedures in healthcare. These changes have had significant impact on the ability for healthcare organizations to share information, resulting in improved care for patients.
Dr. Druss advises that the next stage needed for healthcare is to begin “broadly looking at other social determinants of health.” The focus should be on an approach to healthcare that is person-centered. The concept of addressing population health and creating a system of care will be a more effective approach to improving health outcomes moving forward. He recommends that substance abuse must be brought back into the discussion, and to go past just the concept of integration of physical health and mental health, toward a more “whole person care” approach.
What do you foresee for the field as we move forward?
Dr. Druss: Clearly there’s going to be major changes in how care is delivered. I think there’s a lot of opportunity moving forward with new public sector models, Medicaid, patients with medical homes, and also the promise of new technologies moving forward as well.
I’m very optimistic; I think things will certainly be very different five years from now. We’re in a period where things are evolving very quickly and we don’t know exactly what the world will look like, but I think we can say that things will look different—and that things will look better.
Research has to change as well. I’m mostly a researcher and lot of what we’ve been doing is slow-paced. The slow-paced process by which we develop a model, and then test it over a five year period. You apply for a grant and then you test it for five years, then it’s another two years before it’s published. So we’re going to have to be looking for more ways for understanding data and evaluating programs. I think the new technologies will help, their more wide-spread availability will help. Just as the health system needs to change—and is changing—health research is going to need to change as well.
The funding agencies still are gradually coming to that point. NIMH has a new program that they are looking to fund that looks at natural experiments out in the community. So I think that’s the sort of research that we’re going to need to see more of in the coming years—good, careful, thoughtful evaluations of some of the demonstration projects going on out in the community.
What barriers to integration to you currently see?
Dr. Druss: I’d say that a lot of community mental health centers are still on this part of the learning curve in terms of learning about integration, such as how potential partner organizations work, [such as] Federally Qualified Health Centers. [CMHC’s] often lack information technology infrastructure that makes it easier to do the work. There are some places, some community clinics, and other organizations that are out in front on these issues, that are early adopters, and there’s some that are trying to figure it out and hopefully will learn from the experience of those organizations that are further ahead.
Thank you, Dr. Druss, for your dedication to improving the health and quality of life of so many who live with serious behavioral health conditions.
Be sure to check back soon for our next Thought Leader, Larry Fricks, pioneer in the Peer Support movement.
A sampling of Dr. Druss’s cutting-edge research and other publications are listed below:
Co-Principal Investigator, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation; Funding Period 9/1/96-1/31/98
“Chronic Illness, Disability, and Managed Care”
Principal Investigator, National Association for Research in Schizophrenia and Affective Disorders (NARSAD); Funding period July 1, 1996 – June 30, 1998
“Work and Health Care Costs associated with Depression Compared with Chronic General Medical Illnesses”
Principal Investigator, Donaghue Medical Research Foundation; Funding period July 1, 1996-Decmeber 31, 1999
“Costs of Depression for an Employed Population”
Principal Investigator, NARSAD; Funding Period July 1999-June 2001
“Treatment of Depression and Medical Illness Under Managed Care: Understanding the Differences”
Principal Investigator, NIMH K08 Mentored Clinical Scientist Award; Funding Period January 1999-December 2004
“Impact of Depressive Disorders in Health and Work Settings”
Principal Investigator, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation; Funding Period October 1, 2004-September 30, 2006
“Evidence-Based Management of Depression in Public-Sector Primary Care”
Principal Investigator: R34MH78583; Funding Period September 1, 2006-August 1, 2010
“Adapting a Medical Self-Management Program for a Community Mental Health Center”
Principal Investigator: K24MH075867; Funding period July 2006-June 2011
“Mending the Safety Net: Improving Linkages between CHCs and CMHCs”
Principal Investigator, AHRQ R18; Funding Period September 2008-September 2012
“An Electronic Personal Health Record for Mental Health Consumers”
Principal Investigator R21HS017649; Funding Period August 1st 2008-April 2010
“Mental Comorbidity and Chronic Illness in the National Medicaid System”
Principal Investigator, NIMH R01; Funding period August 2004-April 2014
“Improving Primary Care for Patients with Mental Disorders”
Principal Investigator NIMH MH090584-01A1; Funding Period 06/15/2011- 03/31/16
“A peer-led, medical disease self-management program for mental health consumers”
Of the many challenges in integrating behavioral health and primary care services, the one that garners the most apprehension and concern is sustainability. It is also the most frequent reason for hesitation in moving forward. Healthcare is not set up to address this. Primary care and behavioral health have different billing codes with no easily decipherable means of venturing outside the confines to include payment for integrated services. The mere thought of the process required to begin to tear down the barriers separating the two worlds strikes fear in the hearts of the most courageous administrators.
Healthcare administrators are presented with conflicting demands and are struggling to reconcile the next step. They can:
Ignore the ever increasing focus on healthcare integration and hope it is just another passing fad; or
Place even more burden on the ever-shrinking budgets and hope for the best.
Let’s take a closer look at the options:
Ignoring healthcare integration seems like the easiest solution. Administrators can align themselves with like-minded peers creating a support group who reinforces the notion that it will all just fade away if they merely wait it out. This group gets considerable pleasure in observing the early adopters from a distance, filled with certainty that they are all making huge mistakes. They pat themselves on the back encouragingly as they watch their naïve peers make the occasional fumble, while attributing any successes to sheer (unsustainable) luck.
Over-burdening the current budget seems to be irresponsible. Behavioral health administrators have been faced with budget cuts in unprecedented amounts over the past few years. While they have either become masters at doing more with less or have chosen to leave the field entirely, taking on a new business-line during the increasing uncertainty of their organizations’ financial states seems to be overly risky and counterintuitive.
Yet the pressure is on.
Nationally, more and more behavioral health conferences are featuring healthcare integration tracks. The same is becoming true of primary care conferences and conventions as well. With more and more research and reports being released that provide the necessary data to support the need for integration, it’s becoming more and more difficult to write it off as a passing fad. The recent report from the SAMHSA-sponsored, National Survey on Drug Use and Health, Physical Health Conditions among Adults with Mental Illnesses provides further evidence supporting earlier reports demonstrating the need for integration.
The current model of providing behavioral healthcare may be on its way to becoming obsolete. Now is the time for behavioral healthcare administrators to begin the discussion of how to address the whole-health needs of the people they serve. Whether through collaborative partnership agreements, bi-directional integration, or full integration, this issue can no longer be ignored. There are many changes that can be implemented right away (focusing on billing codes and maximizing billing opportunities) while others will require advocating changes at the state and federal level. (Click here for helpful billing tools created by the SAMHSA-HRSA Center for Integrated Health Solutions.) Daunting though this may seem, the climate is right for these discussions with your state Medicaid and behavioral health offices. They are faced with the task of making the necessary changes to move into the new era of healthcare integration. Strategically, it’s far better to be a part of discussions on creating this new structure than to have it imposed on your organizations. The Georgia Association of Community Services Boards has partnered with the Carter Center to create a forum for change in Georgia via their Integrative Healthcare Learning Collaborative. Not only have they included the public behavioral health providers and their primary care partners, they also have representation from the Georgia Primary Care Association and area medical schools. They recognize that in order to develop sustainable programs everyone must be at the table.
What are your strategies for sustaining healthcare integration? I’d love to hear from you. Please enter your comments/suggestions/ideas below or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Let’s not lose sight of the goal: we must work together to make a difference in improving health outcomes of the people we serve. We CAN ensure that the margin is there to continue the mission. Be a part of the solution!
Moran goes on to look at compelling data: In a study of people (25 to 44 years old) with serious mental illness in Massachusetts over a six year period, the cardiovascular rate was nearly seven times that of the general population. In another study in Ohio, state psychiatric hospital discharges were tracked over a six year period. People who had been hospitalized there died at three times the expected rate, primarily due to cardiovascular disease. The average loss of life was a startling 32 years. The NASMHPD report drew clear connections between antipsychotic medications in the development of metabolic syndrome in people with serious mental illness, particularly when multiple medications are prescribed. Their recommendations include integration of behavioral health and physical health, promotion of the recovery model, supporting wellness, and the implementation of care-coordination models.
It is hopeful that this increased focus will result in a significant increase in longevity for people with serious mental illness. In the words of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, “Let us recognize that there can be no health without mental health.” It would appear that the reverse is true as well: There can be no mental health without health.