For nearly a decade, Journey’s staff have been told to do more with less. Funding from Dane County has not kept up with inflation or increased demand. And, “less” is taking a toll on people in need of mental health services and the staff who provide them. The agency stopped taking new Medicaid fee-for-service patients this month. They are the neediest economically of those in search of help.
Journey’s new director Ron Lampert told Wisconsin State Journal reporter David Wahlberg his ideas about how to “grow” a way out of that dilemma. He will try to persuade the state to increase rates for Medicaid reimbursement, an idea that was echoed by Mary Grabot, director of Adult Mental Health Community Services for Dane County, at a recent meeting about criminal justice reform. See here for full WSJ article.
Lampert should also look at ways to force better implementation of parity laws and regulations. Although the Affordable Health Care Act requires that mental health services be reimbursed by insurance companies equitably with other health care services, those companies have found ways to evade the law. See the mental health parity category on this blog.
In the 1980s, a famed psychiatric hospital came up with a method to survive a devastating decline in funds when insurance companies adopted managed care. The CEO, Steven Sharfstein, embraced business principles that enabled Shepphard Pratt Hospital in Maryland to expand into a multi-service statewide health care system at a time when many psychiatric hospitals were closing. Sharfstein added new kinds of services, such as special education, that were profitable. He also persuaded the state to increase Medicaid reimbursement. See here for more information.
Like Sharfstein, Lampert plans to expand horizontally and geographically by merging with organizations that provide services related to Journey’s core mission, such as job training, and by extending the agency’s reach beyond Dane County. He also is looking into a more cost-effective and flexible payment system that reimburses at a single rate per person per month.