Parity for Mental Health Services At Risk

The Affordable Health Care Act requires parity in reimbursement for mental health and substance abuse services.  That requirement means that insurance companies must treat mental health and substance abuse problems as the medical conditions that they are.   Patients benefit and the requirement is particularly important in addressing the opioid epidemic.

The Kaiser Health Network listed parity as one of the benefits threatened by substitutions for the ACA.  Read the full article here.


Funding Mental Health Services Can Pay off for the Taxpayers, as well as the Beneficiaries

Dane County took a big step forward when it received a grant from the MacArthur Foundation to support expansion of its restorative justice activities.  We have been less successful in mobilizing support for expansion of the mental health services that would help keep people out of jail.

But, investments in those services can pay off.   Bexar County in Texas is the site of a national model that has inspired county governments throughout the country to improve their treatment of people with mental illness and save taxpayer dollars

At the heart of the model are the Crisis Care and Restoration Centers.  Together, they offer 24/7 screening for mental illness, an inpatient psychiatric unit, outpatient psychiatric services, and a variety of substance abuse treatment options.  A police officer can drop off an individual with a mental health crisis and be back on the street within 15 minutes.  Referrals also come from mobile crisis teams, the courts, sobriety unit, mental health professionals, and families.

The two centers serve about 2,200 people per month who otherwise would have gone to jail or emergency rooms or back to the streets.  Before the centers were available, law enforcement officers spent an average of 12 to 14 hours in emergency rooms waiting for psychiatric evaluations.  They now wait about 15 minutes.  The county saves more than $10 million per year on averted jail costs and emergency room costs.

How did they do it?  It took sustained commitment by a wide variety of dedicated people in the criminal justice, county government, and health care communities.  The effort began more than a decade ago.

Identifying and securing funding was key.  Among the sources are Medicaid, Medicare, and the University Health System.  The county secured state funds that allow it to earn Medicaid Administrative Claims, which can cover from 25 to 30 percent of the cost of diverting an individual from jail.

County administrators encouraged state hospitals and other institutional practitioners to seek funds from private insurance, Medicaid managed care payers, and the Veterans Administration.  They received grants from the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration and foundations.

Click here for a link to a case study about the Bexar County model.

Gov. Walker Proposes Funds for Children’s Mental Health Services

Thanks to the Advocacy Committee of NAMI-Dane County for this information about Gov. Walker’s budget proposals for children’s mental health services.

Walker proposes  a categorical aid program of $3 million to pay for social work expenditures of school districts and independent charter schools, a grant program of $2.5 million to help connect youth to mental health services; and $1 million to provide training for school employees about how to provide mental health screening and intervention services.

A policy advisor to Wisconsin School Supt. Tony Evers will meet with the Advocacy Committee at 5:30 on February 13 at the NAMI office,  2059 Atwood Ave., Madison.

Check back here for more information about Walker’s budget proposals affecting mental health services.

Dane County Awarded Major Grant to Support Criminal Justice Reform

Dane County is one of 20 jurisdictions joining the Safety and Justice Challenge, a national $100 million initiative to reduce over-incarceration by changing the way America thinks about and uses jails.  Dane County will design and test innovative local justice reforms designed to safely drive down jail usage and reduce racial and ethnic disparities in their local justice systems.

Through the Challenge’s Innovation Fund, Dane County will receive support and  technical assistance in designing and implementing local reforms.  Dane County’s innovation will focus on training of local peacemakers and technical advances to support expansion of the Community Restorative Court from the pilot project stage to a countywide initiative, with the goal of reducing disparities in the criminal justice system.

“The Community Restorative Court was developed through the work of the Racial Disparities Subcommittee of the Criminal Justice Council and has been supported by key community partners, including the UW Law School, the Madison Police Department, and community members who volunteer their time to serve as peacemakers,” said County Board Supervisor Shelia Stubbs, whose south Madison district is the site of the CRC pilot program.  “This Innovation Grant from a national partner will allow the county to expand this critical restorative justice initiative throughout Dane County and give us even greater access to national expertise.

Dane County  will receive short-term support of $50,000, is eligible for future funding opportunities, and will have access to the resources, peer learning opportunities, and expertise of the Safety and Justice Challenge Network, which is funded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

(Above is an abbreviated version of a press release issued by the Dane County Board of Supervisors on February 1.)