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At the crossroads of an industry-defining era: What's that sucking sound I hear?

June 8, 2010
by Ann Borders
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Recently, the Department of Health and Human Services published a draft strategic framework http://www.hhs.gov/ophs/initiatives/mcc/index.html for addressing the needs of individuals with multiple chronic health conditions which, of course, include many of the disorders that are treated by behavioral health professionals.

In many respects, this plan strikes me as being as significant—or perhaps even more significant—to behavioral health than the healthcare reform legislation passed earlier this year. A Strategic Framework on Optimum Health and Quality of Life for Individuals with Multiple Chronic Conditions describes a vision that includes four broad categories of goals*:

  1. Provide better tools and information to health care and social service workers who deliver care to individuals with MCC 
  2. Maximize the use of proven self-care management and other services by individuals with MCC 
  3. Foster health care and public health system changes to improve the health of individuals with MCC 
  4. Facilitate research to fill knowledge gaps about individuals with MCC

*A Strategic Framework 2010-2105 Optimum Health & Quality of Life for Individuals with Multiple Chronic Conditions, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Interagency Workgroup on Multiple Chronic Conditions, May, 2010 (draft)

Additionally, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has drafted a Description of a Modern Addictions and Mental Health Service System (May 28, 2010), noting: Mental health and addiction services need to be integrated into health centers and primary care practice settings where most individuals seek health care. In addition, primary care should be available within organizations that provide mental health and addiction services -- especially for those individuals with significant behavioral health issues who tend to view these organizations as their health homes. Providing integrated primary care and behavioral health services will allow for cost effective management of co-morbid conditions.

I believe that our brains tell us that we cannot continue to work in isolation from primary care; that we need to take action to work more closely with our colleagues in all areas of healthcare delivery. But most of us are held back by this sucking sound—and it isn’t the one referred to by Ross Perot during the NAFTA debate. That sucking sound we hear is the vortex in which we become engulfed as we are assaulted by competing priorities, by debilitating budget cuts, and by the burgeoning onslaught of rules, regulations, and bizarre forms of hoop-jumping.

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I agree that there should be an addemdum to the current laws to allow communication between primary care & behavioral healthcare to ensure that the consumer's WE SERVE are provided the best and most effective care possible.

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Ann Borders

President and CEO, Cummins Behavioral Health Systems, Inc

http://cumminsbhs.org/

Ann Borders is president and CEO of Cummins Behavioral Health Systems, Inc., serving eight...