Last week, SAE attended New York State’s Coalition for Behavioral Health Agencies, Inc.’s “Rising to the Challenge” conference in New York City. The conference’s Keynote Speaker, Senator Patrick Kennedy, gave an energetic and passionate call to action, requesting that the 2008 Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act now be fully upheld. According to Kennedy, this means that all primary care exams should include behavioral health screenings as a regular part of their appointments and there must be full equality between health and behavioral health, both in reimbursements for services and in government subsidies for infrastructure support, including Information Technology (IT).
Kennedy further called on the behavioral health field to further define its models of care, including those that involve technology assistance (i.e., avatars, smartphone apps), relate to prevention (i.e., Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) studies), and utilize peer support. He named today a “Golden Age for Mental Health,” in that everyone from hospitals to Fortune 500 companies are seeking strategies to reduce cost and improve services, and therefore, in conjunction with parity, the opportunities for growth and change are vast. As advocates for and providers of behavioral health services, we must all call on the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to improve our arena’s metrics and indexes in order to both better quantify our impact and drive improvements in building integrated systems between health and behavioral health.
Overall, if we take action using today’s climate and Parity as a launching pad, we will begin to move toward the ultimate goal of equality between health and behavioral health care for all consumers in the United States.
For more information about the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act, see CMS’ Parity Fact Sheet here.