Behavioral Health

Innovative state policy solutions to enhance the youth behavioral health system

With suicide now the second leading cause of death among children, adolescents, and young adults (aged 15-24 years old) in the United States, it is apparent that the COVID-19 pandemic has not only exacerbated rates of depression and anxiety, but also illuminated the fractures in our youth behavioral health system. In response, states are focusing on ways to advance policies that aim to expand coverage for youth mental health services.

Individuals suffering from mental health conditions or substance use disorders (SUDs) face many challenges accessing care and often do not seek treatment. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data found 1 in 5 children were diagnosed with a mental health disorder, yet only 20% of those children received appropriate care.

In the past two years, over 100 laws in at least 38 states have been enacted with a focus on supporting schools to act as a primary access point for youth behavioral health care. At least half of all states are applying the co-location approach, where both types of care are delivered at the same site, to better integrate physical and behavioral health care. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation report, more than four-fifths of states launched initiatives related to screening for behavioral health needs, an effective strategy for Medicaid to connect those with behavioral health needs to the appropriate services.

Medicaid plays a pivotal role as the largest payer of behavioral health services, including both mental health and SUD services.  Efforts to address these issues have been a focus in Medicaid at the federal level, including in the 2018 SUPPORT Act and more recently in the 2021 American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), which provided enhanced Medicaid funding for certain behavioral health providers and mobile crisis services. The Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) under the Biden Administration has highlighted behavioral health policy and investments as a federal Medicaid priority.

During National Mental Health Awareness Month, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) called for states to prioritize and maximize efforts to strengthen youth mental health and detailed HHS’ plans to support state-wide coordination across federal funding streams to expand youth mental health services. This blog highlights California’s approach and spotlights other states’ efforts to bolster the children’s behavioral health system.

State Strategies to Strengthen the Youth Behavioral Health System

There has been significant work underway in California for years to address youth behavioral health services, but up until recently it did not include substantial investments to redesign the mental health system for youth, and families. California exemplifies ways to leverage policy levers and make significant state investments to cultivate and strengthen the youth behavioral health system. 

In 2021, Californiaenacted groundbreaking legislation by making significant investments to reimagine its youth behavioral health system. The Children and Youth Behavioral Health Initiative is a $4.4B investment intended to enhance, expand, and redesign the systems that support behavioral health for youth, children and families. This initiative, administered by the California Health and Human Services Agency and its departments, aims to evolve California’s behavioral health system in which all children (25 years of age and younger) regardless of payer, are served for new and existing behavioral health needs.

This multi-year strategy seeks to enhance and redesign the current behavioral health system by integrating behavioral health into physical health, education, and other areas that support children and families. With a stronger focus on prevention and early intervention, the Initiative will distribute school-linked partnership, capacity, and infrastructure grants to support implementation of the initiative for behavioral health services in schools and school-linked settings.

The Initiative will also provide incentive payments to qualifying Medi-Cal (Medicaid) managed care plans to establish interventions that expand access to preventive, early intervention, and behavioral health services for children in publicly funded childcare and preschool, as well as pre-K-12 children in public schools. Also included are efforts to submit a State Plan Amendment to incorporate the dyadic services benefit under Medi-Cal, whereby screening for behavioral health problems, interpersonal safety, tobacco and substance misuse and social determinants of health are provided for the child and caregiver or parent during medical visits. A key piece of the Initiative stipulates that every component outlined in the Children and Youth Behavioral Health Initiative Act may only be implemented if the Department of Health Care Services confirms that federal financial participation under the Medi-Cal program will not be jeopardized. Indeed, the intricate design and implementation of the Initiative would not be possible without partnerships from other State agencies, education stakeholders, subject matter experts, and community partners to deliveressential services from prevention to treatment and recovery.

California’s commitment to address youth behavioral health services at a statewide level illustrates the various efforts emerging across the country.  California is one state that is advancing multi-faceted strategies through legislation and Medicaid, but other states have used various Medicaid authorities including 1115 demonstrations, State Plan Amendments (SPAs), and 1915(c) Waivers to remove accessibility roadblocks and enhance youth behavioral health services. States have taken a variety of approaches in their commitments to bolster the system of care around the country that include:

  • New York amended its state plan amendment to expand the EPSDT benefit to enable a greater focus on prevention, early intervention, and expansion of behavioral health services. 
  • New Jersey amended its state plan to make Mobile Response and Stabilization Services (MRSS) for youth up to age 21 reimbursable under Medicaid’s EPSDT benefit.
  • Ohio RISE (Resilience through Integrated Systems and Excellence) for youth with complex behavioral health needs was enacted through a Medicaid 1915c waiver. Through this program, a single managed care organization provides new, targeted behavioral health services and intensive care coordination
  • Washington State passed the Behavioral Health Emergency Services legislation E2SHB 1688 (Chap. 263, Laws of 2022) to ensure coverage for all emergency behavioral health services (adult and children) to protect consumers from charges for out-of-network health care services by addressing coverage of emergency BH services.

Moving Ahead

States can combine the power of their policy levers along with the cascade of forthcoming federal dollars to strengthen the youth mental health system of care. The Bipartisan Safer Communities legislation includes significant funding for mental health screening, among other critical services. The Bipartisan legislation seeks to foster the tremendous opportunity for states and schools to increase behavioral health capacity for students and mental health professionals, evidenced by the School Based Mental Health Services (SBMHS) Grant Program, the School Based Mental Health Service Professionals Demonstration Grant, and several other investments for supportive services in schools.

Ensuring equitable access to a plethora of high-quality behavioral health services for youth requires the individual and collective commitment of states. The children’s mental health crisis has reached unprecedented levels and the opportunity for states to lead by example has arrived. Fortunately, states have significant tools to address the youth mental health crisis through the design and deployment of innovative policies and mission-aligned collaborations. Federal funds and state policy levers will help advance a robust and accessible children’s behavioral health system. As our communities work to rebuild in a post-pandemic world, states have the unique opportunity to provide today’s youth with compassion, essential behavioral health resources, and integrated systems to meet them where they are.

For additional information, please read our Bolstering the Youth Behavioral Health System: Innovative State Policies to Address Access & Parity brief, which explores state policy levers to advance access and availability of behavioral health services (encompassing mental health and substance use disorders) for youth.

Early bird registration discount expires July 11 for HMA conference on the future of publicly sponsored healthcare, October 10-11 in Chicago

Be sure to register for HMA’s 2022 Conference by Monday, July 11, to get the special early bird rate of $1,695 per person. After July 11, the rate is $1,895.

Nearly 40 industry speakers, including health plan executives, state Medicaid directors, and providers, are confirmed for HMA’s The New Normal: How Medicaid, Medicare, and Other Publicly Sponsored Programs Are Shaping the Future of Healthcare in a Time of Crisis conference, October 10-11, at the Fairmont Chicago, Millennium Park.

In addition to keynote sessions featuring some of the nation’s top Medicaid and Medicaid executives, attendees can choose from multiple breakout and plenary sessions on behavioral health, dual eligibles, healthcare investing, technology-enabled integrated care, social determinants of health, eligibility redeterminations, staffing, senior care, and more.

There will also be a Pre-Conference Workshop on The Future of Payment Reform: Delivering Value, Managing Risk in Medicare and Medicaid, on Sunday, October 9.

Visit our website for complete details: https://conference.healthmanagement.com/ or contact Carl Mercurio at cmercurio@healthmanagement.com.  Group rates and sponsorships are available. The last HMA conference attracted 500 attendees.

State Medicaid Speakers to Date (In alphabetical order)

  • Cristen Bates, Interim Medicaid Director, CO Department of Healthcare Policy & Financing
  • Jacey Cooper, Medicaid Director, Chief Deputy Director, California Department of Health Care Services
  • Kody Kinsley, Secretary, North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services
  • Allison Matters Taylor, Medicaid Director, Indiana
  • Dave Richard, Deputy Secretary, North Carolina Medicaid
  • Debra Sanchez-Torres, Senior Advisor, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • Jami Snyder, Director, Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System
  • Amanda Van Vleet, Associate Director, Innovation, NC Medicaid Strategy Office, North Carolina Department of Health & Human Services

Medicaid Managed Care Speakers to Date (In alphabetical order)

  • John Barger, National VP, Dual Eligible and Medicaid Programs, Humana, Inc.
  • Michael Brodsky, MD, Medical Director, Behavioral Health and Social Services, L.A. Care Health Plan
  • Aimee Dailey, President, Medicaid, Anthem, Inc.
  • Rebecca Engelman, EVP, Medicaid Markets, AmeriHealth Caritas
  • Brent Layton, President, COO, Centene Corporation
  • Andrew Martin, National Director of Business Development (Housing+Health), UnitedHealth Group
  • Kelly Munson, President, Aetna Medicaid
  • Thomas Rim, VP, Product Development, AmeriHealth Caritas
  • Timothy Spilker, CEO, UnitedHealthcare Community & State
  • Courtnay Thompson, Market President, Select Health of SC, an AmeriHealth Caritas Company
  • Ghita Worcester, SVP, Public Affairs & Chief Marketing Officer, UCare
  • Mary Zavala, Director, Enhanced Care Management, L.A. Care Health Plan

Provider Speakers to Date (In alphabetical order)

  • Daniel Elliott, MD, Medical Director, Christiana Care Quality Partners, eBrightHealth ACO, ChristianaCare Health System
  • Taylor Nichols, Director of Social Services, Los Angeles Christian Health Centers
  • Abby Riddle, President, Florida Complete Care; SVP, Medicare Operations, Independent Living Systems
  • David Rogers, President, Independent Living Systems
  • Mark Sasvary, Chief Clinical Officer, CBHS, IPA, LLC
  • Jim Sinkoff, Deputy Executive Officer, CFO, SunRiver Health
  • Tim Skeen, Senior Corporate VP, CIO, Sentara Healthcare
  • Efrain Talamantes, SVP & COO, Health Services, AltaMed Health Services Corporation

Featured Speakers to Date (In alphabetical order)

  • Drew Altman, President and CEO, Kaiser Family Foundation
  • Cindy Cota, Director of Managed Medicaid Growth and Innovation, Volunteers of America
  • Jesse Hunter, Operating Partner, Welsh, Carson, Anderson & Stowe
  • Bryant Hutson, VP, Business Development, MedArrive
  • Martin Lupinetti, President, CEO, HealthShare Exchange (HSX)
  • Todd Rogow, President, CEO, Healthix
  • Joshua Traylor, Senior Director, Health Care Transformation Task Force
  • James Whittenburg, CEO, TenderHeart Health Outcomes
  • Shannon Wilson, VP, Population Health & Health Equity, Priority Health; Executive Director, Total Health Care Foundation

Quality standards in addiction care

Across the healthcare landscape, quality standards are in place to ensure patients are receiving safe, appropriate, evidence-based, and standardized care that is tailored to their individual needs and symptomology.   

A significant gap has long existed in the treatment of substance use disorders (SUD), as there was no standardized method to provide treatment based on an individual’s needs at that moment, meaning people seeking treatment often received care that was either too intense or not intense enough, preventing them from attaining sustained recovery.

To create standardized treatment protocols and build additional credibility around programs, the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) developed criteria based on a holistic, multidimensional assessment[1] to determine what level of care (LOC) an individual needs. This development was revolutionary as it was the first time the field agreed on established criteria. After 35 years of improvement and refinement, the ASAM Criteria has become the national standard.

While many providers have adopted the ASAM criteria, and most regulators and payers require its use to determine the LOC a person may need, a significant gap still persists in ensuring services are delivered with fidelity to the criteria. As a result, those seeking treatment for themselves or a loved one continue to face challenges identifying a setting that provides evidence-based treatment focused on their specific needs. 

To close this gap, ASAM partnered with CARF International, the leading accreditor of behavioral health services, to develop criteria that demonstrates providers are, in fact, delivering the LOC for which they are admitting persons. Programs that are providing levels of residential care can be certified for three levels including: 3.7- Medically Monitored Intensive Inpatient Services, 3.5- Clinically Managed High  Intensity Residential Services, and 3.1- Clinically Managed Low Intensity Residential Services.

By achieving the ASAM LOC certification, residential treatment programs can establish themselves as high quality SUD providers and ensure future program licensing as well as future funding from states, and private and public payors. This certification demonstrates that facilities are delivering the appropriate care to the appropriate person at the appropriate time. 

Preparing for certification is different from preparing for licensure in that a program must take an in-depth look at their clinical practice to ensure alignment with the ASAM criteria.

Because of our long and proven track record of helping clients prepare for, and secure, NCQA, AAAHC and URAC accreditation as well as deep expertise in SUD programs and treatment, HMA was selected by ASAM as a preferred partner to provide technical assistance and usher programs through the certification process as well as help address shortfalls and gaps in programs and care.

Our team has the right mix of clinical and operational knowledge, training, and frontline experience to guide clients through the certification process and help build better systems of care and accountability from the ground up.

HMA has the depth and breadth of services across the healthcare spectrum, and we are uniquely positioned to help organizations address gaps identified in the certification process and improve care by ensuring services are delivered in fidelity to the LOC at which a person presents.

HMA’s Institute on Addiction is also able to provide a full complement of services and support to residential providers including ASAM LOC clinical expertise, developing policies and procedures, building and operationalizing clinical programs, and improving revenue cycle, operations, and as well as payor contracting strategies.

Certification is really step number one. Utilizing HMA’s “Survey Ready Model,” we will identify ways to build quality into everyday practice allowing programs to stay on top of – and ahead of – requirements. 


[1] https://www.asam.org/asam-criteria/about-the-asam-criteria

Oklahoma to transition to Medicaid Managed Care

This week, our In Focus section reviews a new Oklahoma law to implement Medicaid managed care by October 1, 2023. The law, signed by Governor Kevin Stitt on May 26, 2022, requires the state to issue a request for proposals and to award at least three Medicaid managed care contracts to health plans or provider-led entities like accountable care organizations.

Provider-led entities would receive preferential treatment, with at least one targeted to receive a contract. However, if no provider-led entity submits a response, the state will not be required to contract with one.

Goals of the legislation include:

  • Improve health outcomes for Medicaid members and the state as a whole;
  • Ensure budget predictability through shared risk and accountability;
  • Ensure access to care, quality measures, and member satisfaction;
  • Ensure efficient and cost-effective administrative systems and structures; and
  • Ensure a sustainable delivery system that is a provider-led effort and that is operated and managed by providers to the maximum extent possible.

Plans would provide physical health, behavioral health, and prescription drug services. Covered beneficiaries would include traditional Medicaid members and the state’s voter-approved expansion population, but not the aged, blind, and disabled population eligible for SoonerCare.

Plans will need to contract with at least one local Oklahoma provider organization for a model of care containing care coordination, care management, utilization management, disease management, network management, or another model of care as approved by OHCA.

Oklahoma will also issue separate RFPs for a Medicaid dental benefit manager plan and a Children’s Specialty plan.

Background

Oklahoma currently does not have a fully capitated, risk-based Medicaid managed care program. The majority of the state’s more than 1.2 million Medicaid members are in SoonerCare Choice, a Primary Care Case Management (PCCM) program in which each member has a medical home. Other programs include SoonerCare Traditional (Medicaid fee-for-service), SoonerPlan (a limited benefit family planning program), and Insure Oklahoma (a premium assistance program for low-income people whose employers offer health insurance). Prior efforts to transition to Medicaid managed care have encountered roadblocks, starting in 2017 with a failed attempt to move aged, blind, and disabled members to managed care.

More recently, in June 2021, the Oklahoma Supreme Court struck down a planned transition of the state’s traditional Medicaid program to managed care, ruling that the Oklahoma Health Care Authority does not have the authority to implement the program without legislative approval.

Contracts had been awarded to Blue Cross Blue Shield of Oklahoma, Humana, Centene/Oklahoma Complete Health, and UnitedHealthcare. Centene/Oklahoma Complete Health also won an award for the SoonerSelect Specialty Children’s Health Plan program, covering foster children, juvenile justice-involved individuals, and children either in foster care or receiving adoption assistance.

Link to Senate Bill 1337

Behavioral health crises drive bipartisan action in Congress

Agreement about the severity of the nation’s mental health and substance use disorder crises is rising above the partisan politics in Congress. In fact, these are among a handful of issues driving work on bipartisan legislation across all the key House and Senate committees with jurisdiction over behavioral health programs and policies this year.

On May 18, the U.S. House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee unanimously approved the “Restoring Hope for Mental Health and Well-Being Act of 2022” (H.R. 7666). This legislation incorporates a collection of bipartisan bills to update and reauthorize over 30 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) programs addressing the mental health and substance use disorder (SUD) crisis. The bill also advances initiatives to strengthen the 9-8-8 National Suicide Prevention Lifeline implementation efforts, invest in the crisis response continuum of care, and support strategic opioid crisis response plans among numerous other policies. Energy and Commerce is one of several House committees planning to advance behavioral health bills this year.

U.S. Senate committee leaders have been similarly engaged in developing bipartisan proposals to address mental health and substance use disorders. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) and Finance committee leaders are expected to reveal their proposals as soon as this summer. The Finance Committee’s proposal will focus on Medicare, Medicaid, and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) policies and could reflect findings from the committee’s report, “Mental Health Care in the United States: The Case for Federal Action.” Similarly, HELP members Sens. Chris Murphy (D-CT) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA) introduced the Mental Health Reform Reauthorization Act to extend several expiring mental health programs, which could be incorporated in that Committee’s comprehensive proposal. Across committees, there has been an interest in strengthening parity, supporting integration of primary and behavioral health care, increasing access to youth mental health screenings, scheduling fentanyl analogues, and easing requirements for prescribing Medication Assisted Treatment.

What To Expect

Congressional leaders have consistently expressed their desire to advance bipartisan legislation to address the urgent needs and gaps in the mental health and SUD care delivery systems, as well as support education and research.  While these are key areas to watch, the diminishing number of legislative days on the congressional calendar and climate surrounding November’s mid-term elections create uncertainty for the timing and scope of Congress’ work. It remains to be seen whether a package of health care proposals, such as reauthorization of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s user fee programs, the Cures 2.0 legislation to advance biomedical research, mental health and substance use disorder legislation, and the PREVENT Act could be sent to President Biden’s desk before the end of September.

HMA companies are supporting clients impacted by the policy changes being discussed and the program funding addressed in these legislative proposals. Understanding the landscape for federal change allows state and local governments and stakeholders to plan for and shape these opportunities. For more information, please contact Andrea Maresca, Principal, Federal Policy, HMA; Matt Gallivan, Director, Leavitt Partners; and Laura Pence, Director, Leavitt Partners.

President’s Budget Recommends Significant Investments in Unity Agenda Issues

This week, our In Focus section reviews President Biden’s budget proposal for federal fiscal year 2023, released on March 28, 2022. The President’s proposal kicks off the Congressional budget process and negotiations on the annual spending bills for the federal fiscal year that starts October 1, 2022. The budget proposal highlights the Administration’s program initiatives and recommended legislative and regulatory changes. The President’s budget is merely a request of Congress, who drafts the actual budget resolution that will go into effect if passed.

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Medicaid Managed Care Provides Opportunities for States to Address Social Determinants of Health and Health Equity

This week, our In Focus highlights a new report prepared by Health Management Associates (HMA) on the potential for Medicaid Managed Care to enable states to address social determinants of health (SDOH) and health equity above and beyond what’s possible with traditional fee-for-service models. The report was released by Together for Better Medicaid, a coalition committed to building a better Medicaid system across the country.

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HMA Launches Behavioral Health Webinar Series

In the last decade, there has been increasing awareness of the role behavioral health plays in healthcare outcomes and cost of care—especially in the public sector. Starting with Medicaid expansion and the high rates of behavioral health conditions in the expansion population to evidence of the impact of behavioral health on physical chronic disease and medical spending, behavioral health is an area of focus for improving the quality of care and reducing cost.

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