March 28, 2023
Vice President & Principal, Client Relations, Associated Benefits Consulting
President of Behavioral Health Services, HCA Healthcare
Senior Telepsychiatry Partnerships Manager, Genoa Telepsychiatry
Executive Vice President of Corporate Development, Netsmart Technologies
Vice President, Health Policy, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
One-third of the United States population lives in a designated mental health professional shortage area. To put the statistic into perspective: 160 million people in the country are without access to professional services solely focused on mental health-related issues. Regardless of the lack of health professionals needed, 86% of employers say mental health is a top priority for the employees within their companies.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce held an event focused on the impact Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics (CCBHCs) have made in terms of enhancing mental health within communities. Experts committed to augmenting accessibility to treatment for mental health and substance use disorders discussed the collective involvement of the private sector in catering to diverse populations and locations within communities.
Small Business Innovation Aims to Address Mental Health Needs
The overall basic health of the human population directly affects the well-being of families, businesses, and other organizations society depends on to function successfully. Susan Ellender, Vice President & Principal, Client Relations at Associated Benefits Consulting, said their company has seen more employers become more adamant about requesting access to behavioral health benefits for their employees, particularly within small businesses.
“Small businesses are families,” Ellender reiterated. “They're owned by families. Their employees become family members, and we want to help them.”
Innovation related to mental health services has come to the forefront of the business world. Digital tools, such as those which can help employees within small companies anonymously request services for mental health-related issues, have become available through apps utilized by human resources departments.
“We've seen innovation in private companies through grants [from] different departments of the government that say this is for small business to help financially incentivize employees to do health productive activities – mental health, physical health, holistic health – to make positive impacts across their lives and the lives of everyone in their community,” said Ellender.
Healthcare Organizations Can Partner with Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics
Eric Paul, President of Behavioral Health Services at HCA Healthcare, noted the company has 183 hospitals across 20 states and saw over 400,000 patients in their emergency rooms in 2022 who had been discharged with a diagnosis of a behavioral health or substance use disorder.
“We believe at HCA that mental health is healthcare,” Paul said. “You can't have physical health without positive mental health services. We're in the business, and we're committed.”
According to Paul, working with CCBHCs across the states where HCA Healthcare has mental health units – and across their entire enterprise where they have emergency rooms – is important.
“We have 183 hospitals, we have another 125 freestanding [emergency departments], and probably another 200 urgent care clinics that are all access points for mental health services. We are the safety net in a lot of situations, so we work closely with community mental health centers,” Paul said. “To be able to function and do an assessment for our patients, we have community mental health centers that are a part of our treatment planning process and really integrate into our treatment teams.”
Leveraging Technology Can Improve the Patient and Clinician Experience
Acceptance of telehealth treatment rose during the COVID-19 pandemic and continued to be accepted by providers and consumers. David Theobald, Senior Telepsychiatry Partnerships Manager at Genoa Telepsychiatry, explained people found telehealth convenient, and the no-show volume dropped significantly, so economics improved.
“At the same time, there is a need for clients to engage in person,” Theobald added.
“How Genoa Telepsychiatry works, and how CCBHCs and community mental health centers work, is they have the ability to reach clients, whether in the home or have them come into the clinic,” he continued. “You don't need the client to come into the clinic, but you do need some in-person touch point — and that's important to keep going, even [amid] a shortage of psychiatrists.”
Kevin Scalia, Executive Vice President of Corporate Development at Netsmart Technologies, explained how the company’s technology is working with CCBHCs to streamline processes and improve patient care.
“From a clinician point of view, [taking notes is] probably the most dreaded thing that clinicians have to do. They don't do it [in a] timely [manner] because it is a dreaded thing, so they end up doing it at night, and it may not be that accurate,” Scalia said. “If we can build it right into the workflow, that's something that's really important.”