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National Council: Treatment offers economic gains

January 30, 2015
by Julie Miller, Editor in Chief
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Two new business cases published by the National Council for Behavioral Health outline solutions to address America's behavioral health needs by closing the gap between those needing behavioral health care and those receiving it. Better integration of medical and behavioral healthcare and expanded use of evidence-based practices are also among the recommendations.

Despite the burden on the economy, treatment of behavioral health disorders has been too low a priority, according to the National Council.

The substance-use case study notes that treatment is cost effective overall. For example, Washington state compared disabled Medicaid enrollees receiving SU treatment with the untreated population and found average monthly medical costs were $414 higher for those not receiving treatment. With the cost of the treatment added in, there was a net cost offset of $252 per month or $3,024 per year. For individuals with opiate-addiction, cost off sets rose to $899 per month for those who remain in methadone treatment for at least one year.

The mental health case study notes the example of a net gain realized in Missouri. Individuals with a serious mental illness that were served by its Community Mental Health Case Management program saw their Medicaid healthcare costs decline by $500 per person per month. And the program has been expanded statewide.

"We need a sustained shift from sick care to health care in the United States that focuses on both mind and body," said Linda Rosenberg, National Council president and CEO, in a statement. "Using high impact strategies to reduce preventable expenditures on emergency and inpatient care by individuals with mental illnesses and addictions can generate savings that states, health plans and communities can use more effectively."

These savings can be reallocated to expand services to those with behavioral health disorders, allowing for resizing of funding pools for acute care, specialty care, primary care and behavioral health care. Lower use acute care and specialty utilization can then permanently fund expanded integration of primary care and behavioral health services, breaking the cycle that has been driving health care costs up unnecessarily.

These case studies are available online at