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Who controls the message about behavioral health? Not us

August 7, 2015
by Julie Miller, Editor in Chief
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Historically, behavioral health leaders have allowed others to frame pivotal debates concerning the industry. The time has come to rethink that approach, according to Ed Jones, PhD, senior vice president for the Institute for Health and Productivity Management, speaking at the Behavioral Healthcare Executive Summit in St. Louis this week.

As healthcare transforms, leaders must promote the value and the primacy of behavioral health with a true debate that is based on fact. Rather than being passive and allowing other stakeholders to resign behavioral health to a secondary position, Jones says, it’s time to promote a new message.

“It’s a polemic grounded in data,” he said. “We have to get accustomed to this polemic if we are to advance our personal interest and the interest of our patients.”

For example, knowing that as much as 70 percent of an individual’s health status is tied to behavior and lifestyle choices, one could argue that behavioral health specialists would be a better resource to deliver care coordination and disease management than the prevailing model that has nurses offering telephonic support to patients. Jones says behavior change is critical to overall health, so behavioral health should be positioned as a key asset.

“Who owns those behaviors? We do,” he said. “My job is not treating mental health and substance abuse but the critical health behaviors for quality of life.”

And right now, the behavioral specialty represents only a fraction of spending—less than 10 percent.

“There is a war over healthcare resources, and we are limited to table scraps,” he says.

Jones recommends a roadmap to reframe the message and secure the primacy of behavioral health:

  1.  Recognize the value position of behavioral health within the larger healthcare landscape;
  2.  Redefine behavioral health to include health behaviors as well as mental health and substance abuse;
  3.  Consider behavioral health as a core measurement of health status;
  4.  Reformulate primary care to be “head first;”

He says a behavioral health marketing campaign should be created, which must include the importance of health behaviors, the prevalence of disabling behavioral conditions and the superiority of treatment that is more efficacious than many common physical health treatments today.
 

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