Prominent statesmen, including the president Joe Biden and Gov. Jay Insleeidentified mental health care as a priority service, and some experts discussed how they are making progress on this in Washington on 2022 Inland Northwest Region Health Care Reform Policy Conference.
Get the latest information on government health policy delivered to your inbox.
Psychologist Dr. Noelle Turner of Mica Peak Psychology & Consulting was one of the panelists on the conference’s “An Honest Conversation About the Future of the Behavioral Health System.”
“I want to talk about integrated primary care or primary care in behavioral health,” Turner said. “And the reason I’m passionate about it is that it combines medical and behavioral services for the problems that patients come to primary care with, including stress, physical symptoms, healthy behaviors, mental health, disorders, associated with the use of psychoactive substances. There is no wrong door for any problem.”
Behavioral health services are badly needed, but few who need care have problems accessing them. According to Turner, primary care physicians (PCPs) have expressed concern about the issue.
“We know that 46% of adults will have mental health problems or substance use at some point in their lives,” Turner said. “And that number has actually increased with the pandemic. We also know that 20 percent of primary care visits are for mental health or substance use alone, and that’s where I see primary care shine in behavioral health Of the 20% of GP visits that are only for mental health and substance use problems, in a survey of GPs, about two-thirds said that they cannot access psychiatric care for their patients. [They’re] are willing to do something, but they cannot get them under their care.”
Jeff Thomas, CEO of Frontier Behavioral Health, also participated in the discussion. He cited telemedicine, which has been widely used during the pandemic, as an effective way to offer more behavioral health services.
“We’re going to continue to expand the use of technology and the delivery of services,” Thomas said. “Telemedicine is here to stay. What exactly it will look like remains to be seen [public health emergency] the order seems to be getting old. There is definitely a place for this in our world.”
Thomas said interoperability will be important so providers can share information through electronic health records and have as much patient information as possible.
“By the end of this year, we will have an interaction with every single one of our primary care providers,” Thomas said. “This is such a fantastic development. The exchange of information between the community is studied. I think there will be some progress on that. This is essentially about having referral portals and a closed loop of referrals to social determinants of health care providers.”
Thomas said another way to improve care is to further expand communication-based inpatient care. He noted that there are several Grants from the Ministry of Commerce were distributed through the Behavioral Health Facilities Program to expand services in behavioral health facilities. This can help these facilities prepare to care for patients who are ready to be discharged from hospitals but have not been able to secure placement in other health care facilities.
Jess Molberg, senior director of behavioral health at Coordinated Care, also participated in the discussion. She said additional investment could help address the issue.
“You see people staying in acute conditions longer,” Molberg said. “We need places like this so people can continue their wellness journey. There is no general approach for this.”
Some states are using qualified mental health professionals (QMHPs) to reach more patients, which could be helpful in Washington, Molberg said.
“They go out into the community,” Molberg said. “They also sit in clinics. If you are unable to see your consultant, you can view this QMHP.’