Mental Health America News Release
July 25, 2008
Mental Health America Urges U.S. Health Agencies
To Act on Report on Improving Mental Health in Primary Care
Identifies Ways to Improve Policies to
Increase Access to Services
Contact: Steve Vetzner, (703) 797-2588 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Alexandria, VA (July 25, 2008)—Mental Health America today urged agencies of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to implement recommendations in a new report on barriers to providing mental health services in primary health care.
“While mental health is key to overall health, millions of Americans do not get needed mental health treatment because wrongheaded policies and practices discourage provision of mental health care in primary care settings,” said David Shern, Ph.D., president and CEO of Mental Health America. “This report provides a roadmap for dramatic, yet attainable improvements in mental health service-delivery.”
The report, “Reimbursement of Mental Health Services in Primary Care Settings,” recommends clarifying federal Medicaid and Medicare law regarding reimbursement of mental health care in primary care settings and suggests ways states can incentivize prevention and screening of mental health disorders in primary care settings. The report was released this week.
It also describes approaches to reimbursing key evidence-based practices for providing mental health services in primary care settings. In addition, the report calls for improving access to mental health practitioners through reimbursement of telemedicine and school-based health centers.
The report was jointly funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), with the technical expertise of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).
“Improving integration of mental health and primary care will not only result in better clinical care, but will also lower medical costs,” said Shern. “We commend SAMHSA, HRSA and CMS on their report and call on them to implement its critical recommendations. We look forward to working with these federal agencies to broadly disseminate these clarified policies and provide technical assistance on implementation.”
Dr. Shern said the report appropriately emphasizes the challenges presented by certain Medicaid payment policies to improving access to mental health services in primary care settings. As the single largest source of public funding for mental health care, Medicaid policies have a dramatic effect on access to mental health services. The report also recognizes that significant variation exists in the interpretation and application of Medicaid and Medicare program rules and guidelines.
Mental Health America also supports the report’s call for increased collaboration among federal and state policy makers for Medicare, Medicaid, primary care, and mental health to promote the availability of mental health services in primary care settings.
With research indicating that some 40 percent of individuals with mental health problems initially seek care in primary care settings, improving the integration and facilitating access to more specialized mental health treatment through the primary care system would undoubtedly help remedy the consistent findings that over half of individuals with significant mental health conditions do not receive adequate mental health care.
Moreover, the recent tragic finding that persons with severe mental illnesses who are served in our public mental health systems die on average 25 years prematurely, due to a full range of common chronic conditions, underscores the urgent need for improved integration of mental and primary health care.
Mental Health America is the country’s leading nonprofit dedicated to helping ALL people live mentally healthier lives. With our more than 320 affiliates nationwide, we represent a growing movement of Americans who promote mental wellness for the health and well-being of the nation – everyday and in times of crisis
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