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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2019 - 2020 Regular Session


Posted: December 10, 2018 03:10 PM
From: Senator Kristin Phillips-Hill
To: All Senate members
Subject: Behavioral Health Integration
In the near future, I plan to introduce legislation integrating behavioral health and physical health services in Pennsylvania’s Medicaid program.

As some background, HealthChoices is the name of Pennsylvania's managed care programs for Medicaid recipients. Known as the carve-out, mental health and drug and alcohol services provided via the HealthChoices program differs from the physical health component of the HealthChoices program. Unfortunately, because of this carve-out, access to quality, comprehensive care becomes an issue for those who need multiple types of services.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 68% of adults with mental illness also have one or more chronic physical conditions. People with serious mental illness need integrated care, as they die on average 25 years earlier than those without, largely because of preventable chronic physical illness. Those chronic physical illnesses are further complicated by various mental health and/or substance use disorders. Furthermore, tackling the opioid crisis necessitates coordinating a member’s physical health, mental health, medication, and substance use services.

In November, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) sent out a letter to state Medicaid Directors to announce opportunities to design innovative service delivery systems for adults with serious mental illness. CMS specifically stated integration is critical for improving access to treatment for physical health conditions and substance use disorders that are common among individuals with serious mental illness.

Therefore, I am introducing legislation to coordinate mental health, substance abuse and primary care services in an effort to produce the best outcomes and to best care for people with complex health needs. In other states, behavioral health integration has proven less administrative costs. It provides easier integration of a single treatment plan, easier data collection, and monitoring of outcomes tying together the entire cost of care and better quality of care.

Please join me in cosponsoring this important legislation that will improve health outcomes and lower costs in the system.

Introduced as SB268