Mental health is an essential part of our overall wellbeing. When someone is unable to function at their full capability due to stress, anxiety, or other cognitive conditions, it impacts their health, relationships, ability to perform a job, to take care of others … every aspect of their lives.
Unfortunately, our existing health systems are not adequately structured and resourced to address the surging need for mental health services. We need to strengthen the many avenues to access and scale mental health services — including integrating mental health into primary care. About 40 percent of behavioral health visits take place in primary care practices. More collaboration between primary care practices and mental health providers would improve overall access and wellness. There is no singular perfect model, but experts agree that collaboration is key.
Integrated care, where doctors and nurses work alongside mental health providers, is one high quality proven model of care. There are, however, many variations of what integrated care looks like across the country. Previously, the Quality Institute has highlighted leading models at our conferences, including Cherokee Health from Tennessee and the AIMs Center at the University of Washington. These models show what advanced integrated care can achieve for patients.
Some providers here in New Jersey have been able to implement similar models because of waivers, exceptions, and pilots. For instance, Federally Qualified Health Centers are allowed to offer integrated care. Meanwhile, foundation funding has enabled Henry J Austin FQHC to train with Cherokee Health and implement that model in Trenton. But for most providers, the bifurcated payment systems and regulatory hurdles still block true integration. The inability to bill for social workers within traditional medical practices and the byzantine requirements for separate doors and waiting rooms still exist. The licensing and credentialing time lags, and relatively low reimbursement rates add further challenges to better connecting primary care and mental health.
At the Quality Institute, we recognize that we are in the midst of a mental health crisis — and we want to speed the pace of change. On May 17, the Quality Institute’s Spring All-Council Conference will bring together experts from around New Jersey to explore solutions for getting to integrated care. We’ll start our conference with three perspectives on the regulatory, licensing, and payment barriers that prevent integration — and how these policies harm patients.
We’ll also address specific policy changes and hear patient experiences. Leaders from health systems, insurance, law, and behavioral health will share how they are making their best efforts to integrate care despite the hurdles — and the changes they think we need.
I urge you all to register for our conference and to create momentum for policy changes and implementation to improve both physical and mental health care in our state. We hope to end our conference with a clearer path forward. Here are our speakers:
Introductory Speakers: Framing the Issue
- Roy Leitstein, CEO, Legacy Treatment Services
- LeAnnDiBenedetto, LCSW, Program Director, Acenda
- John Jacobi, JD, Professor of Health Law, Seton Hall University
- Heather Howard, JD, Professor, Princeton University and Quality Institute board member, moderator
Panel: How to Provide and Advance Integrated Care in NJ
- Chris Barton, LCSW, Senior Director, Integrated Systems of Care & Network Innovation, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey
- Doug Forrester, Chairman and CEO, Integrity Health
- Gary Small, MD, Behavioral Health Physician-in-Chief, Hackensack Meridian Health
- Guy Maytal, MD, Chief of Integrated Care, Forge Health
- Kate Shamszad, MS, MPH, Director of Policy, Quality Institute, moderator