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Physician groups call for accelerated behavioral health integration

Payers and policymakers urged to join physicians in plan to support holistic care

July 8, 2022 – Physician organizations are working to accelerate the integration of behavioral health services into primary care settings and address the unmet need for mental health services and treatment for use disorders of substances, but doctors cannot solve the crisis alone. A new call to action from eight of the nation’s leading physician organizations calls for a unified, collective effort by stakeholders across the health system to support equitable and holistic care for patients and their families.

“Even with a clear recognition that our primary care systems must urgently embrace a paradigm shift to stem the growing crisis in behavioral health, there remain significant challenges in building clinical pathways that deliver comprehensive care to the person. “said outgoing AMA President Gerald E. Hamon, MD, co-author of the call to action. “These challenges cannot be overcome by physicians alone, and we are calling on payers and policymakers, among other industry players, to come together around a set of key solutions in partnership with physicians.”

The call to action, published today in Health Affairsurges payers and policymakers to join forces with physicians and “act now to implement solutions and ensure primary care physicians and their care teams have the support they need to provide equitable care and comprehensive to their patients and families.

For employers, health plans and other healthcare system payers, the call to action outlines five solutions to accelerate the widespread adoption of Behavioral Health Integration (BHI) across healthcare practices. primary care:

  1. Expand coverage and fair payment for all stakeholders using BHI models;
  2. Assess how and when to apply cost sharing for integrated services (whether delivered in person or via telehealth);
  3. Assist primary care practices by providing technical support, provider training and regional sharing of resources;
  4. Minimize and/or eliminate practices for managing the use of BHI Services; and
  5. Launch person-centered, employer-based behavioral health programs with culture-driven intentional work to de-stigmatize behavioral health.

Federal and state policymakers can also support the widespread adoption of BHI by primary care practices, and the call to action outlines four essential steps:

  1. Provide long-term sustainable funding opportunities for training and education on the implementation of BHI services;
  2. Increase BHI service payment levels for all federal and state coverage program stakeholders;
  3. Work with health plans and coverage programs to limit utilization management review practices, enforce behavioral health parity laws, and strengthen network adequacy regulations; and
  4. Increase federal funding for the purpose of developing the behavioral health workforce, especially for those practicing in underserved areas.

Physician organizations committed to providing accessible and equitable treatment for behavioral, mental and physical health needs and in 2020 created the BHI Collaborative incorporating the collective expertise of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, American Academy of Family Physicians, American Academy of Pediatrics, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, American College of Physicians, American Medical Association, American Osteopathic Association, and American Psychiatric Association.

The work of the BHI Collaboration helps physicians navigate and succeed in an ever-changing healthcare environment with proven resources to implement a holistic approach to physical, mental and behavioral health that meets the critical needs of all the patients.

Quotes from physician organizations represented in the BHI Collaborative:

Warren YK Ng, MD, MPH, President, American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
“AACAP strongly supports collaborative relationships between child and adolescent psychiatrists and pediatricians to increase urgent access to mental health screening and services for young people in our country. We are pleased to partner with the other members of the BHI Collaboration to raise awareness, provide resources and education on the potential of these models to address current gaps in our mental health care delivery system.

Mark Del Monte, JD, President and CEO, American Academy of Pediatrics
“The AAP is honored to join our medical colleagues who come together from all specialties to elevate the importance of integrating behavioral and mental health at such a critical time. Pediatricians observed and alarmed the mental health crisis facing children and adolescents long before the pandemic hit, and now we face a pivotal moment when urgent action is needed inside and outside of pediatric practices to help deal with it. We hope this publication will spark the interest and commitment of other partners in the healthcare ecosystem, particularly payers and policy makers, to work with the physician community to bring about needed change.

Sterling N. Ransone Jr., MD, President, American Academy of Family Physicians
“The AAFP has joined our colleagues in the medical community who are advocating for behavioral health integration for one simple reason: it’s the right thing to do. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated an already present in our country, and our patients deserve primary care that sees the whole person. Improved mental health screening and coordination of physical and behavioral health care services will best serve our patients. The BHI collaboration will is committed to achieving the integration of behavioral health into all primary care practices, but we need policymakers, payers and industry stakeholders to join us in removing barriers to widespread holistic care .

Iffath Abbasi Hoskins, MD, President, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
“Mental and behavioral health issues are one of the leading underlying causes of preventable pregnancy-related deaths. The COVID-19 pandemic has shed light on how integral mental health care is to our daily lives and how harmful neglect of mental health care can be. Integrating mental health care into obstetric care is an essential step in ensuring that patients receive holistic support and can access the treatment they need.

Saul Levin, MD, MPA, Chief Executive Officer and Medical Director, American Psychiatric Association
“This is an important statement from many leading physician groups, because together we know that integrated care, including collaborative care, will help millions of Americans access health services. mentality they need. As we grapple with the long-term impacts of the pandemic on mental health, I am pleased that the Department of Health has released this essay for its audience of key stakeholders, who can help physicians implement these solutions. innovative.

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