The Utah Department of Health (DOH) and Department of Human Services (DHS) provided an update on the progress of their merge into one organization on Monday detailing executive leadership confirmations and a new organizational chart. The two departments also held a public Q&A on their plans and perspective around integrating physical and behavioral health care under the new department.
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Here are some of the names of the new department’s confirmed leadership:
- Tracy S. Gruber – Executive Director
- Nathan Checketts – Deputy Director, Health Care Administration
- Dr. Michelle Hofmann – Executive Medical Director
- David Litvack – Deputy Director, Community Health & Well Being
- Nathan Winters – Deputy Director, Operations
Gruber became executive director of DHS in Jan. 2021 — where she currently sits. Before that, she was the director of the Office of Child Care at the Utah Department of Workforce Services (DWS).
Checketts is currently the executive director of DOH and the deputy director of DHS. Before that, he was Utah’s Medicaid director and helped design and implement Medicaid expansion in Utah.
These new confirmations led to the creation of a new organizational chart.
This structure and the leadership will be effective on July 1, 2022 — when DOH and DHS officially merge.
In the recent Q&A, Emma Chacon, DOH’s interim Medicaid director, and Doug Thomas, director of the Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health at DHS, spoke on their plans for discussing physical and behavioral health integration procedures under the merged department.
Thomas said the merger could make it easier to coordinate care between the physical health and behavioral health side with both under one organization. Chacon said integrating treatment would allow for earlier intervention into other non-diagnosed issues for which the patient was not currently seeking treatment, which will improve health outcomes. She said:
“We need to look at the whole person in terms of their treatment.”
The new department is open to working through different integration models to find one that best serves Utahns and local community clinics. There is currently one plan — Utah Medicaid Integrated Care (UMIC) — which is only in five counties and only includes Adult Expansion Medicaid members.
Checketts said the new department leadership plans ask for suggestions for an integration plan for community care organizations so the final design will aid the specific needs of all Utah’s local communities.
“We have committed to have [integration] discussions at the local level to see what that looks like. We can talk about some of the things we’ve seen and you can talk about some of the things that you are seeing at the local level, and work together as we make those decisions.”
Chacon said funding and reimbursement rates for an integrated system is still being discussed. She added that currently, behavioral health funding is under Medicaid, which has not been able to keep up with caseload growth in the past. They are asking questions to help figure out how to keep funding flowing and create reimbursement rates that acknowledge the complexity of treating the whole person.
Over the next few months, the Steering Committee — the group heading the decisions of the vision of the new department — will continue to work on the transition plan. They will present this plan on Dec. 1 to Gov. Spencer Cox and the legislature.
Stakeholders, advocacy groups, and private citizens can submit their questions and comments about the merger on their website.