Expert testimony focused on increasing access and utilization for mental health services in California
Boston, March 5, 2019 – Today, Sarah Arnquist, Vice President of Account Partnerships on the West Coast for Beacon Health Options (Beacon) provided expert testimony before the California Assembly and Senate Health Committees at a Joint Hearing on Improving the Medi-Cal Mental Health Delivery System. In California, Beacon works with a network of nearly 4,000 independent Medi-Cal providers, eight Medi-Cal managed care plans, and a total of 25 counties from San Diego to the Oregon Border. In 2018, Beacon served approximately 140,000 unique beneficiaries in California and provided telehealth services to about 4,000 beneficiaries, a number that quadrupled from 2016 to 2018.
Arnquist’s full written testimony can be found here.
In her written testimony, Arnquist said, “Based on our experience working in many states, we believe that a beneficiary should be able to access all allowable benefits and services across full continuum of care from a single, cohesive provider network regardless of level of impairment or payer responsibility.”
Within the existing regulatory constraints, Arnquist offered a few key recommendations to enhance the existing benefit structure to more effectively support prevention and early intervention, including the following:
- Strengthen crisis systems as a key element of regional and state-wide infrastructure. The state should consider creating some baseline expectations for crisis system design that should include law enforcement, criminal justice, education and the child welfare systems, along with the managed care plans, to explore opportunities for better coordination, prevention and early intervention.
- Support virtual collaborative care models with real-time psychiatric consultation programs to improve access and quality. California should invest in a large-scale, regional psychiatric consultation program, like the Massachusetts Child Psychiatry Access Program (MCPAP), that improves access and quality by providing real-time support to PCPs. The program should be payer agnostic. Potential funding sources could be Proposition 56 or the Mental Health Services Act.
- Expand the array of prevention and early intervention services that Medi-Cal health plans can purchase. This can improve the Medi-Cal plans’ ability to maintain individuals at the mild to moderate level. Examples of the types of evidence-based services that could be included are paying for family therapy, collateral and care coordination, and allowing for services rendered by peers and individuals with lived experience.
Finally, she concluded by stating that “we believe that California has opportunities to modify and improve the organization of its public mental health system to draw down more federal reimbursement, increase access to high quality care, and ultimately deliver better client outcomes.”