On June 17th, New Vitae Wellness and Recovery’s President and CEO Judy Yanacek visited New Orleans, Louisiana to participate in the 2015 Open Minds Strategy and Innovation Institute Conference. The conference was a fantastic opportunity to meet with a variety of behavioral healthcare providers while participating in various training sessions. Yanacek was able to attend a variety of educational seminars, including discussions on health insurance coverage, supportive housing, and the challenges individuals face following a period of incarceration.
The first training, titled, “The New Stats on the New Payer Landscape,” focused on the effects of The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), which significantly changed the coverage status of individuals seeking healthcare services. The PPACA resulted in expansions to Medicaid and the development of insurance marketplaces that yielded in a decrease in those using commercial insurance coverage. Speakers emphasized the impact these changes had for those who were diagnosed with behavioral health challenges, and reviewed the variations to the program roll out based on state rules. Fortunately, expanding coverage for all Americans has also increased the insurance coverage for those with behavioral health diagnoses. It was suggested that coverage for Medicare will need to increase as the American population ages, and what changes may need to be considered for the Medicare program.
Another noteworthy seminar, “Housing and Health Care: Emerging Models to Provide Housing and Treatment Services for Complex Consumers,” emphasized the link between overall health and wellness and the availability of safe, affordable housing. Sadly, there has been a lack of options in residential systems and difficulty in identifying the most critical elements of a successful housing program. Beneficial strategies have included searching for ways to integrate individuals who had experienced homelessness into a local community, having centralized housing options, and supporting self-determination. While there are various housing challenges specific to states and local communities, a major discussion focused on looking for a balance between housing and compliance with the Olmstead Act. The Olmstead Act focuses on assisting people to remain in their home communities when seeking behavioral health care; however, there are frequently limited residential options in various areas. Many participants agreed that growing Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) programs in combination with residential services would provide the most beneficial blend of clinical and residential supports.
A third training, titled, “Serving the Criminal Justice Population: Reentry and Community Mental Health Programs,” generated thoughtful discussion regarding the challenges related to reentry programs. More than 1.5 million people are incarcerated in prisons in the United States, with almost 2000 individuals released daily from custody. It is estimated that 45% of that population is challenged with either behavioral health or substance use diagnoses. Panelists Betsy Hardwick, Chief Operating Office and Program Administrator for ReEntry Project for Offenders with Special Needs, Dr. Sharon Sidell, Executive Director of Be Well Partners in Health, and Jan Tarantino, Associate Director for Resources for Human Development, all provided insight regarding state and local funding challenges for those released from incarceration. Speakers and audience members agreed that transportation, health insurance, housing, and long term case management and support were all factors that could assist with transitioning and work to reduce recidivism.
Overall, the conference was an enriching experience for Yanacek. She reports, “Having the opportunity to engage in discussion about these important topics and connect with other providers from across the nation was invaluable.” Plans are being developed to assist with maintaining contacts and attending next year.