The Good Care Collaborative (GCC) continued their work toward making integrated behavioral health care in New Jersey a reality with a conference in Trenton on May 10, 2016. Over 200 health care stakeholders, including patients, advocates, payer representatives, health care and behavioral health providers and policy leaders from across the state gathered for the GCC’s second annual conference, “Envisioning the future: Behavioral health in New Jersey.”

In New Jersey, research shows that nearly 15 percent of the adult population has a mental illness, and 86 percent of New Jersey Medicaid high-utilizers have mental health diagnoses. Our work with the South Jersey Behavioral Health Innovation Collaborative showed that people with mental health or substance use disorder diagnoses were much more likely to bounce in and out of multiple local emergency departments, receiving expensive and ineffective treatment.

Integrated behavioral health care means that mental health and substance abuse treatment are made a seamless part of primary care and vice-versa. This model has the potential to revolutionize how people with both serious and more mild mental illnesses experience health care. However, in New Jersey, regulations that require separate licenses and (previously) separate facilities for behavioral and physical health have made true integration difficult to achieve.

The afternoon panel,

The afternoon panel, “National Perspectives: Integration at the State Level.” Left to right: Heather Howard of Princeton; Jason Helgerson, Medicaid Director of New York; Patrick Gordon of Rocky Mountain Health Plan; and Keith Gaither, Director of Managed Care at TennCare

At the conference, participants heard on-the-ground perspectives from health care providers and consumers in New Jersey, as well as lessons from policymakers nationwide who are on the cutting edge of making integrated care a reality. Cindy Mann, former Director of the Center for Medicaid and CHIP Services and keynote speaker at the conference, said that she is seeing “a tremendous amount of transformation” around the country on integrated care.

“There is no one way to move forward, but in all cases it will take strong leadership, deep stakeholder engagement, and accountability,” she said.

New Jersey Senate President Stephen Sweeney also spoke, commending the GCC’s efforts towards Medicaid reform in the state.

If you are a Medicaid stakeholder in New Jersey interested in working toward a system grounded in good care, including integrated behavioral health care, you can join the GCC email list or become a member. The GCC will be holding educational events and other opportunities around integrated behavioral health as they work toward integrated care for New Jersey’s most vulnerable patients.

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