Whiteford’s behavioral health reform package is heard in health policy committee

Behavioral health reform continues to be a top priority in the Michigan Legislature with the hearing of Rep. Mary Whiteford’s (R-South Haven) bill package House Bills 4925-4929. 

The Michigan House Health Policy Committee heard these bills in committee, which did not end in a vote. More discussion for this package is planned for future committee work. 

 

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HB 4925-4929 would replace the 10 current prepaid inpatient health plans (PIHPs) with a single administrative services organization (ASO) and run the Medicaid behavioral health program directly through the state, keeping these services under public domain. 

Whiteford says the ASO would act as a liaison to the state and the community mental health centers (CMHs) to reduce bureaucracy and improve transparency. Whiteford says this would also allow for CMHs, families, and care providers to have more input into the funding they are allocated and assistance they need from the state and legislature. 

“We are going to be able to have much more consistency and transparency across the state,” said Whiteford. “It is really about equity and fairness so that every person who qualifies for services has that incredible opportunity to get the support to have their best life and have input into it.”

Rep. Felicia Brabec (D-Pittsfield Township) says the package will open up mild to moderate behavioral health cases to the PIHPs. Right now, care for mild to moderate cases are on private Medicaid health plans. Severe cases are treated consistently in the public system. Brabec says this leads to many mild to moderate folks being put on a waitlist for care and end up never receiving the care they need. 

“As a psychologist, one of the things that I know is that when someone is ready for services, we have to be in a position to offer them [care] in that moment,” says Brabec. “Otherwise, we miss the window of opportunity.”

The bill package would also fully fund the Certified Community Behavioral Health Centers (CCBHCs). There are currently 36 CCBHCs in the state, 13 of which started a demonstration program in Oct. 2021 which streamlined federal funding

This bill package would bring the other 23 CCBHCs into the demonstration program, which will allow for them to have access to more federal funds and fully fund their operation. 

Alan Bolter, associate director of the Community Mental Health Association of Michigan, says this bill package would put CMHs in a central hub role and maximize their resources to provide care to Michiganders. 

“There are a number of positives that come out of the package,” Bolter says. “CMHs are far more than just a provider in your community. Their role is very exhaustive beyond just providing services.”

The package remains in the House Health Policy Committee for further discussion. 

Whiteford will be joining State of Reform as a keynote speaker at our 2022 Michigan State of Reform Health Policy Conference on April 21st in Lansing.