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Rashida Asante-Eccleston

Communications Associate

What’s the Next Innovation in Mental Health?

September 21, 2017 | Innovation | Comments
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Most people with mental illness or substance use disorders do not receive treatment. How will we respond? How can we meet the challenges we face in a volatile health care environment? What does the future hold for mental health?

These questions were the foundation of Tackling Mental Health Through Innovation, a series of panels and dialogues presented by Roll Call.

The morning began with a fireside chat with Dr. Arthur Evans, CEO of the American Psychological Association, discussing his concerns about people who are unable to access the behavioral health care that they need. Mental health services suffer when providers face financial limits caused by changes in health care law. Cuts in coverage for behavioral health will not make these costs go away – they will show up somewhere else, such as increased emergency room costs for individuals whose worsening condition requires acute care.

Dr. Evans spoke of innovation in rethinking how we approach mental health issues to ensure that people can obtain and afford the care that they need before their condition becomes severe. Part of the response is public education, using education programs such as Mental Health First Aid to provide a baseline understanding of mental health. Integrating behavioral health with primary care, using technology to reach patients in rural areas and initiating policy change to create flexibility with certain programs, including Medicaid, may also help providers reach those who need care.

The mental health field encompasses a variety of specializations. The second panel featured a spectrum of professionals in the behavioral health field, moderated by Molly Ryan of Otsuka. Panelists Kabir Nath, Otsuka North America, and Lori M. Reilly, PhRMA, represented the pharmaceutical industry, while Mary Giliberti, National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), provided an advocacy perspective. Panel members discussed the need for all segments representing mental health to work together to create innovation in providing effective treatments for mental illness and educating patients about their treatment options. Innovations in pharmaceuticals may include using biomarkers to better predict how treatments will affect individuals and addressing the side-effects that many psychoactive medications can cause.

The final panel addressed the innovative solutions needed to resolve communications and financial difficulties. Mohini Venkatesh, National Council for Behavioral Health, and Dr. Harsh Trivedi, Sheppard Pratt Health System, discussed how laws surrounding communication of health records and differences in electronic health record (EHR) systems may prevent providers from properly communicating with each other to improve patient care. Primary and behavioral health providers may misunderstand HIPAA and not properly exchange information, making it difficult to provide integrated care. Changes to or increased education about health communication law may facilitate this critical communication.

The panel continued to talk about the financial shortfalls providers face that Dr. Evans had raised earlier, which can make it difficult for providers to improve their practices. With possible changes to Medicaid and health insurance law that could result in even less money in the future, providers may be more concerned about staying open than strategizing.

What lies ahead for behavioral health? While no one can say for sure, communication and cooperation – between providers of primary and behavioral health to provide integrated care, between advocacy groups and drug manufacturers to improve treatment, between mental health professionals and the public to educate on mental health and between the public and the government to assess the impact of health care changes – will be critical when developing needed changes in the field.

View a recording of the sessions on the Roll Call webpage.