We’ve had to make lots of difficult decisions in response to the ongoing funding shortfalls in our behavioral health system (as well as everywhere in state government). Many decisions (while painful in the short term) have been necessary to maintain long term system stability as Arizona continues to emerge from this unprecedented fiscal crisis. While Arizona is gaining ground economically, the progress is slow and requires ongoing, innovative approaches and strong collaboration by all behavioral health system partners. Because of our partnerships- our system remains strong.
State government has been working hard to protect coverage and services for individuals with behavioral health needs. A recent public letter from Dr. Nelson outlined some of our innovations to creatively reinforce our behavioral health system. We’ve needed to reduce behavioral health provider reimbursement rates, but we’ve taken other actions to help out behavioral health providers and folks that receive services. For example, we increased the percentage that must be spent on services and decreased the amount of profit behavioral health authorities are allowed to earn- pressing a larger percentage of the total money into services. We’ve also further reduced administrative costs, pressing more of the available funds into services.
We’ve also been encouraging the integration of physical and behavioral healthcare among behavioral health providers with acute care health plans and community health centers around the state. While these partnerships should also reduce overall healthcare costs, they also aim to improve quality of care and health outcomes. We’re also engaged in exciting planning activities to increase integration of physical healthcare and behavioral healthcare. In collaboration with AHCCCS, on July 15 we released a Request for Information to seek feedback on the feasibility of developing as “health homes” for folks that have a serious mental illness which we think will offer additional reductions in overall healthcare costs while improving member health outcomes.
Our primary goal—even during these challenging budgetary times—is to provide the best possible behavioral health care to our members and we’re committed to achieving that goal along with our partners in the behavioral health system.