Ways for hospitals to stay on top of behavioral health

One in four Americans experiences a mental illness or substance use disorder each year, and the majority of those also have a comorbid physical health condition. Hospitals provide essential behavioral health care services to millions of Americans every day. In recent years, the challenges of providing these behavioral health services have increased significantly. In response, hospitals have redoubled their efforts to establish community partnerships and ways to provide effective treatment options, including better integration of behavioral health care services into the broader health care continuum.

The American Hospital Association has a long-standing commitment to support member efforts to deliver high-quality, accessible behavioral health services. Consistent with that commitment, AHA has launched a webpage — www.aha.org/behavioralhealth — that gives members easy access to information and tools to help them navigate the changing behavioral health care system and understand national, state and local activities affecting behavioral health.

The AHA’s Section for Psychiatric and Substance Abuse Services and its Hospitals in Pursuit of Excellence initiative also regularly host webinars and highlight innovative hospital strategies. In addition, they have released a new guide, “Triple Aim Strategies to Improve Behavioral Health Care,” which describes strategies and action steps hospitals can take to develop a well-coordinated, accessible, affordable and accountable system for delivering behavioral health care. The guide also includes case examples of how hospitals are working with community partners to improve access and quality of care while bending the cost curve and improving overall community health. You can obtain the free guide at www.hpoe.org.

Behavioral health is also receiving attention at the national level, with Congress considering legislation that would remove barriers and increase access to care. The AHA strongly supports efforts to increase access to and improve the quality of behavioral health care, including fully implementing and enforcing the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act; providing adequate behavioral health coverage and reimbursement through Medicare, Medicaid and private insurers; integrating the delivery of physical and behavioral health; and increasing the behavioral health workforce through the minority fellowship program and the National Health Service Corps. Congress is also considering legislation to address the opioid epidemic and increase access to treatment and training for first responders.

I encourage you and your board to stay on top of these developments and take advantage of these resources as you look to transform health in your community. 

Margaret Dahl (Margaret.Wagnerdahl@innovate.gatech.edu) is Committee on Governance chair and a trustee of WellStar Health Network ACO in Marietta, Ga.