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Refocusing on behavior and wellness

December 1, 2006
by PAMELA GREENBERG, MPP
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The American Managed Behavioral Healthcare Association regroups

Over the past several years, the role of companies that provide managed behavioral healthcare has evolved and changed. Increasing attention has been paid to people's overall health and well-being, and it has been recognized that in order to improve all healthcare quality, mental health and substance use services must be included. Additionally, the role of behavior in health improvement and management of chronic conditions has been fostered.

This trend has resulted in an increased focus on care coordination, evidence-based practices, quality measurement and improvement, wellness programs that foster healthy behavior, and special programs related to managing and treating obesity, diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, heart disease, hypertension, asthma, and other conditions.

Based upon behavioral health programs’ expanding role, the American Managed Behavioral Healthcare Association (AMBHA) began to reexamine its scope of programs and activities. As a result, the association developed a new mission, vision, and name to reflect the changes taking place among its members and the industry. After several meetings and telephone calls, the AMBHA Board voted in October to change AMBHA to the Association for Behavioral Health and Wellness (ABHW).

ABHW's members cover more than 110 million insured lives and more than 20 million EAP lives. Members include Alliance Behavioral Care, College Health IPA/Comprehensive Behavioral Health Management, Magellan Health Services, MHN, Schaller Anderson Behavioral Health, United Behavioral Health, University Behavioral HealthCare, and ValueOptions. In 2007, ABHW will welcome Cenpatico Behavioral Health as its newest member, and other companies have expressed interest in becoming involved next year as ABHW expands into the wellness arena.

ABHW and its member companies’ vision is to use their behavioral health expertise to improve healthcare outcomes for individuals and families across the healthcare spectrum. Our vision is of a healthcare system that:

  • embodies the six aims of the Institute of Medicine's Crossing the Quality Chasm report (safety, patient-centeredness, effectiveness, efficiency, timeliness, and equity);

  • recognizes the extensive impact behaviors have on a person's health, well-being, and functioning;

  • acts to promote behavior that fosters wellness and healthy lifestyles;

  • advances mental health and substance use treatment, acknowledging its interrelationship across systems of care and with a person's total health;

  • promotes active consumer participation; and

  • improves functional outcomes for individuals, organizations, and industries.

ABHW's mission is to be the national voice for behavioral health and wellness companies, committed to improving healthcare access and outcomes as well as promoting health and wellness by effectively treating mental health, substance use, and other behaviors that impact health. ABHW's key objectives and strategy include:

  • activating and educating Congress, state legislators, regulators, accreditation agencies, media, thought leaders, the medical community, and the public on the value and importance of mental health, substance use, and behavioral treatments to achieve wellness, recovery, and productivity;

  • advocating policies that further ABHW's vision;

  • collaborating and providing a forum for discussions with external stakeholders;

  • promoting quality healthcare delivery that strives to achieve recovery, wellness, and a productive workforce;

  • providing opportunities for ABHW members to exchange ideas and offer creative solutions to problems that impact all members; and

  • acting as a conduit for the dissemination of timely information and as a nationally recognized contact for the industry.

This is an important time for the behavioral health industry. There is increasing focus and attention on behavioral health issues and a relatively new interest and understanding of the importance of wellness. Purchasers have a heightened interest in using health insurance options to help maintain a healthy and productive workforce. There is a growing concentration on comprehensively treating comorbid conditions and looking at behavior change as a means to help get and keep people healthy. ABHW and its member companies are behavior experts and the natural organizations to focus on the impact that behavior has on healthcare. ABHW is the voice, whether it's on Capitol Hill or with federal agencies, accrediting bodies, or other associations, for behavioral health and wellness companies.

Pamela Greenberg, MPP, is President and CEO of the Association for Behavioral Health and Wellness, as well as Chair of the Coalition for Fairness in Mental Illness Coverage.

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