Behavioral health is a critical issue for the Medicare population. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), roughly 20 percent of older Americans experience a mental health condition such as anxiety, depression or bipolar disorder. In addition, the inappropriate use of prescription drugs and alcohol are becoming increasingly common, especially among older men. That group in particular experiences alarming rates of suicide. The CDC reports that men 75 and older have the highest rates of suicide per 100,000 people.
HealthInsight – the Quality Innovation Network-Quality Improvement Organization (QIN-QIO) serving Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon and Utah – is working in each of its states to better support primary care practices with resources and education to increase behavioral health screenings.
With over 800 practices spread out over a large geographic area, coordination is key. Throughout its network, HealthInsight has increased collaboration with local, state and national partners such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Project ECHO™ (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes) programs, and government mental health authorities.
The QIN-QIO also has worked to raise awareness about the important role of primary care providers in the delivery of behavioral health screenings and other behavioral health services, especially in rural areas.
“Many Medicare beneficiaries feel more comfortable receiving mental health services from their primary care providers versus going to a community mental health center,” said Joan Gallegos, Project Manager at HealthInsight. “It’s been helpful to link primary care providers with the larger mental health services community to share resources and increase the level of service available to beneficiaries.”
To better support care providers, HealthInsight created a Practice Intervention Toolkit, a step-by-step guide of best practices, screening tools, and evidence-based strategies. They’ve also hosted a series of webinars for practices across all four of their states. Moving forward, the QIN-QIO is exploring ways to spread the word about the importance of screenings and the serious nature of behavioral health.
“It’s been helpful to link primary care providers with the larger mental health services community to share resources and increase the level of service available to beneficiaries.”
“We’re looking for spokespersons for behavioral health who can help get the message out in our states,” said Gallegos. “There’s so much stigma around these issues. To take this work to the next level, we need more education with the public about the impact and prevalence of behavioral health and substance abuse.”