How To Manage The 5% With Multiple Chronic Conditions & Complex Support Needs

By Monica E. Oss
There is a lot of investment money going into the mental health field—in fact, $14.7 billion in the first half of this year (see Why Are Digital First Mental Health Companies So Popular?). Much of that investment is focused on digital behavioral health systems and tools for both professional and self-care.

However, these new platforms and tools are not the perfect fit for every consumer with a mental illness. In fact, 25% of consumers with any mental illness have a serious mental illness (SMI). In all, 13.1 million consumers, or 5% of the total United States population, have an SMI (see Key Substance Use & Mental Health Indicators In The United States: Results From The 2019 National Survey On Drug Use & Health). Of consumers with SMI, 27% have co-occurring substance use disorders. We also know that SMI consumers on average tend to die 10 to 25 years earlier than the general population—and have a mortality rate that is twice as high as that of the general population because of chronic physical medical conditions such as cardiovascular, respiratory, and infectious diseases; diabetes; and hypertension (see Premature Death Among People With Severe Mental Disorders). 20% of the SMI population lives in poverty Approximately 20% of jail inmates and 15% of state prison inmates have an SMI (see Mental Health & Criminal Justice). 33% of the homeless population has an SMI (see 250,000 Mentally Ill Are Homeless. 140,000 Seriously Mentally Ill Are Homeless).

For the approximately 5% of the population—those with multiple chronic conditions and complex support needs—that use a majority of the health care resources, a different approach is needed to assure good consumer outcomes and prevent inappropriate use of resources. That population was the focus of our recent discussion with Carole Matyas, Vice President, Operations at Sunshine Health, and the keynote speaker at the upcoming 2021 OPEN MINDS Executive Leadership Retreat.

On September 22, Ms. Matyas will deliver the keynote address, The Future Of Managing Care For Consumers With An SMI—What Works. The cornerstone of progressive interventions for the high-risk/high-needs population with a serious mental illness is based on a “whole person” treatment strategy that encompasses medical, behavioral, pharmacy, social needs, and caregiver collaboration and coordination. Ms. Matyas will review Sunshine Health programs that are showing promising positive outcomes such as reduced use of acute/crisis care, better engagement with primary care that improves medical health outcomes and addresses high comorbidity issues, stabilized community-based living environment by addressing social needs for the enrolled Medicaid and Medicare members served. She will provide an overview of their Long Acting Injectable (LAI) program with data that demonstrates reductions in emergency department and inpatient services, and increase in community-based and medical services for members.

My takeaway from our pre-Institute discussion with Ms. Matyas? The Sunshine Health approach to optimizing the management of consumers with an SMI has four key components—intensive case management to assure care coordination, leveraging long-acting medications, a focus on primary care, and addressing social support needs.

Intensive case management to assure care coordination. One approach that has improved outcomes for SMI consumers is intensive case management. Sunshine Health took its top 400 high-needs, high-risk consumers (who have 30+ hospital admissions a year, go to the emergency room every other week, and reject any type of community-based treatment) and had its staff provide proactive and intensive case management services in collaboration with a host of community provider organizations and stakeholders. For example, case managers work closely with a telehealth provider organization that Sunshine Health contracts with to ensure that consumers discharged from hospital have their seven-day follow up appointment virtually and then connect them with an outpatient provider organization for ongoing care.

Leveraging long medications. Sunshine Health has been encouraging provider organizations to use long-acting injectables (LAIs) for antipsychotic medication administration. Ms. Matyas shared that SMI consumers receiving monthly LAIs have shown significant stabilization in their mental health and also do better at getting care for their comorbid medical conditions, engage with peers socially, and are even able to have part-time employment. She said, “We are promoting use of LAIs and really going a long way in working with hospital systems, primary care physicians, and mental health providers to make it easy to obtain those medications, administer them, monitor, and do outreach so members continue treatment. While the medications can be expensive, the results definitely show reductions in hospitalizations, readmissions, and emergency room visits as well as better outcomes from community-based treatment.”

Sunshine Health has a number of strategies to increase the use of LAIs. They do not require provider organizations to obtain prior authorizations to administer LAIs. In addition, if clinical professionals start an LAI when a consumer is in the hospital, case managers make sure to follow up with the consumer to make sure they get to the outpatient provider organization for their next dose when it’s due. They also have a “concierge program” within their pharmacy network and customer service representatives call members to schedule an appointment for their next LAI dose. Some pharmacies are also authorized to administer the LAIs. Sunshine’s provider relations team is charged with providing information about LAIs to community mental health and primary care provider organizations.

Ms. Matyas said, “We have a goal of increasing long acting injectables 25% year over year. During the pandemic, we had interruptions with folks getting their long acting injectables, but we are working towards getting back to normal state, which is encouraging.” And now there are two barriers to overcome to extend the use of LAIs, she added. The first is adherence which becomes challenging when consumers are say, cycling in and out of homelessness and are not stable in their environment or engaged in their treatment. The other issue is that there’s a history of long acting injectables not getting authorized by managed care. So provider organizations need to be educated and learn that “they don’t have to jump through a lot of hoops” to be able to prescribe LAIs if appropriate for the consumers.

Focus on primary care. Sunshine Health is encouraging provider organizations to go the integrated care route by participating in health home models and value-based reimbursement (VBR) models. They are also leveraging data to encourage collaborations and equipping primary care provider organizations to better address the needs of SMI consumers. Recently, they launched a behavioral health home program and seven community mental health centers have signed up to date. These centers have co-located primary care and behavioral health services and are delivering whole-person care under value-based contracts.

VBR is the cornerstone for integrated care. Sunshine Health offers incentives for provider organizations to address “gaps in medical and behavioral care.” In the behavioral health homes program, the incentive program is contingent on preventive health screenings being conducted for all consumers and on addressing the comorbidities that SMI consumers have. All provider organizations in Sunshine’s network—whether they are primary care practices or community mental health centers—are expected to address comorbidities and to report on the array of HEDIS measures related to both medical and behavioral care. Ultimately, Ms. Matyas explained, “The goal is to move more to value-based care, where we can impact members by having them in a health care environment so that they don’t have to go eight different places to get the care they need. They should be able to be more easily referred and seen, for whatever service it is they need. Value-based care incentivizes providers to work together without dictating a one-size-fits-all model.”

Sunshine Health embeds behavioral health services in primary care and offers psychiatrists who can consult on prescribing patterns and other issues in the care of SMI consumers. Ms. Matyas explained, “Every member covered by us is assigned a primary care provider regardless of whether they have an SMI diagnosis or not. So every one of the 5% of our 2.6 million members with SMI has a primary care physician. We take the data to our primary care practices and say, ‘Here are the demographics of the population assigned to you and here are the care gaps.’ The primary care practices will tell us whether they can handle the whole-health needs of these SMI members or want us to move them to a different provider. Or the practices may say they are equipped to handle some things but not others. So then we bring in behavioral health quality practice advisors to work with them, or we move the SMI members to a primary care practice that is better suited to work with this population.”

Addressing social support needs. Sunshine Health addresses social determinants of health (SDOH) in a variety of ways. Many of their behavioral health provider organizations have robust case management programs and the case managers connect consumers to social supports as needed. The health plan maintains a database of community resources that these case managers can access on request. They also offer micro grants to small community projects that support social needs. Some of their Medicaid programs, like the SMI specialty plan, have expanded benefits such as housing rental deposit or one month’s advance rent to help consumers get into housing. They’ve distributed cell phones and tablets for consumer use. SMI consumers get $35 a month in over-the-counter benefits from CVS to buy non-prescription items.

The fact that health plans are looking at primary care as the hub for SMI treatment should be a wake-up call for specialty provider organization executives who believe that their niche in serving this population assures a steady stream of business. Assuming responsibility for the whole-person care (medical, behavioral, and social) of the SMI populations served and participating in value-based arrangements are becoming the basics for sustainability planning.

Value-Based Reimbursement Models Help SPARC Get A Leg Up In Medicaid Managed Care Contracting

By Meena Dayak

SPARC Services & Programs (SPARC) is a behavioral health provider organization in North Carolina that has been providing home and community-based services since 2015. They serve 425 consumers monthly and employ 70 full-time staff. They focus on complex consumers—children and adults with severe and persistent mental illnesses (SPMI) who have not been successful with residential and other traditional treatment services—and work to keep them out of institutional care. Currently, most of their consumers are covered by Medicaid, although they have just started to expand into the commercial insurance space. SPARC’s service array includes outpatient services, home and community-based therapy services, rehabilitation services to help consumers transition from residential treatment to community living, support for daily living activities to help consumers live independently in the community, case management, and enhanced crisis response.

Since its inception, SPARC has operated predominantly through value-based reimbursement (VBR) arrangements with managed care organizations. SPARC’s Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Teri Herrmann, MA, talked to OPEN MINDS about their VBR models and how they have helped to advance the mission of SPARC.

Reimbursement Models

SPARC currently has two VBR contracts with two managed care organizations (MCOs), Cardinal Innovations and Partners Behavioral Health Management. 26% of their consumers receive services under these VBR models, which constitute nearly 48% of SPARC’s total revenue.

Both of SPARC’s VBR contracts are based on per member per month (PMPM) case rates. When a consumer is referred to them, they do an assessment and seek initial authorization for treatment from the health plan. Typically they get a 6-month authorization and bill one unit per month. The case rates range from $2,800 to $3,000 per month.

SPARC’s very first health plan contract with Cardinal Innovations in 2015—for children’s services—was a value-based contract with downside risk. If a child receiving Family Centered Treatment® (FCT) services from SPARC entered into residential care either during the course of treatment or up to a year post-treatment, then SPARC had to give money back to the payer. “It was pretty unheard of in that landscape,” said Ms. Herrmann. After a year, SPARC re-evaluated the contract with the payer and decided that the goal was “too aggressive.” They re-negotiated the contract to make payback contingent on no readmissions within six months of treatment. The health plan was flexible with value-based contracting as it was new territory for them, too, said Ms. Herrmann. So now, if during treatment, or up to six months post-treatment, the consumer enters into residential care or stays in an inpatient setting longer than 10 days, then SPARC is charged back up to 30% of the amount that they have billed. Ms. Herrmann noted that they’ve had to pay monies back to their health plan, especially because the consumers they serve are so complex but SPARC remains committed to value-based contracting because of the longer term potential for revenue growth and the flexibility offered by the model to improve the quality of care.

In a second value-based contract with Partners Behavioral Health, SPARC has an incentive-based payment with upside risk only for children in FCT. If the children—who receive home and community based services from SPARC—are able to remain at home three months and six months after discharge from a residential facility, then SPARC receives incentives.

For one year, SPARC also had a value-based contract with Cardinal Innovations (operating under a North Carolina Department of Justice mandate) to help adults with SPMI—who had been “inappropriately placed” in adult care homes—transition to independent living in the community. This was a value-based contract with upside risk only, where SPARC was rewarded if they could help consumers transition successfully from the adult care homes and keep them in community housing through continuous interventions.

Success Factors For Value-Based Reimbursement

Ms. Herrmann attributes the success of value-based reimbursement to four factors—a strong referral network, the use of evidence-based practices in treatment, robust data integration and reporting capabilities, and a mindset of innovation and risk tolerance.

Value-based reimbursement—and the “willingness to take on consumers that no one else wants”—has strengthened SPARC’s status as a “preferred provider” with health plans and other state entities. They receive referrals from their MCOs, local hospital systems, state social services and juvenile justice departments, residential treatment facilities, and community-based provider organizations. Ms. Herrmann said, “We’ve got a pretty sophisticated referral process that tracks all our referral sources, and then aligns them with the payers. We can see what’s working and see where the holes are so we can put a referral marketing plan in place to address the gaps.” In addition, 85% of referral sources reported that SPARC kept them informed of the status of their referral. This “closed loop” referral approach strengthens SPARC’s appeal in helping to maintain continuity of care.

SPARC was built on the foundation of the family-centered treatment (FCT) model, an evidence-based practice (EBP) with a trauma treatment model of home-based family therapy that Ms. Hermann was involved in developing in the early 2000s. She underscored that using FCT helped to achieve the improved outcomes that value-based models demand. The use of EBPs is accompanied by relevant training and certification for staff using the model, which replaces some of the prior mandated state training that was not always relevant to the services staff delivered.

Ms. Herrmann describes herself as a “data nerd” focused on assimilating and continuously monitoring outcomes data to examine the potential to improve services. She said, “We don’t just want to measure if the person showed up. We want to objectively look at each person and if they are getting better.” They have built their electronic health record system to produce the key data and desired reports and are continuously working with their developers to manipulate and learn from the data. SPARC applies this data-informed approach across their value-based as well as fee-for-service programs so they can improve performance all around. Ms. Herrmann noted that the health plans are primarily looking for data on avoidance of emergency department utilization and avoidance of inpatient services or residential care for the consumers that SPARC serves. She said, “We’ve had a pretty long placement culture here in North Carolina that we’re slowly changing the tide on. If someone really needs those more acute levels of care, there is a place in the continuum for them. But we don’t want those services to be overutilized for the wrong reasons. And so that’s where we’re really focused for outcomes measurement right now.”

SPARC was proactive from the outset and proposed value-based contracting to their health plans. Ms. Herrmann elaborated, “As we were brainstorming and envisioning the concept for this company, we wanted to serve those niche individuals whose needs weren’t being met. And we were hearing from stakeholders and payers that they were really struggling to figure out what services to get to them. So we saw that we had to be innovative. We knew that starting a company and immediately jumping into value-based contracts was a little risky. But we also knew it would say a lot about us. As a new provider organization, we said to the health plans, ‘Let’s take this walk in value-based work together and learn.’ And this pitch for risk-based contracting opened doors that may not otherwise have been opened.”

Services & Outcomes

For 2019, SPARC reported the following outcomes from its range of services covered by value-based contracts (see SPARC Services & Programs: 2019 NC Outcome Data).

Family-Centered Treatment: Family-centered treatment (FCT) is an evidence-based practice with four phases of treatment—joining and assessment, restructuring, valuing changes, and generalization. FCT is targeted toward consumers at risk for higher levels of residential service—those with extensive histories of using acute services without successful outcomes; those who’ve been hospitalized with little prior treatment and are being recommended for residential services; and those currently in residential treatment where discharge is delayed because of lack of family systems.

Services are intensive with a minimum of 10 hours per month provided to the family. FCT incorporates trauma treatment and coordination with other systems, such as the school, justice, primary care, and social service systems as well as 24/7/365 crisis intervention services. FCT seeks to confirm and capitalize on internal changes within the family so that the family is not dependent on the therapist once services terminate. Families also have the opportunity to give back to their communities and share what they have learned with other families.

While starting FCT at SPARC, 57% of referrals were in some form of an out-of-home placement and 43% were at home with their family. After treatment, 81% of consumers receiving FCT were able to remain with or be reunified in the community with their family or another caregiver. 100% of families were engaged in treatment, participating in five or more sessions in 30 days. And 96% of families reported that treatment improved their family life.

In-Home Therapy Services: In-home therapy services (IHTS) is a combination of motivational interviewing and care coordination provided in the home and community to children and their families where there are complex clinical needs that traditional outpatient therapy cannot adequately address. IHTS is a time limited service, approximately 6 months, in which a therapist and the case manager work with the child and their family to meet the therapeutic needs as well as provide linkage to professional and natural supports. The case manager works with the various systems involved with the child and family, such as the school, primary care, social services, and justice systems. Upon discharge from IHTS, children and their families can continue to receive outpatient therapy to ensure continuity of care.

85% of families successfully completed treatment and 97% of consumers were either at home with family, or in other family placements, at the time of discharge from treatment.

Transition management services: Transition management services (TMS) is a rehabilitative service intended to increase and restore a consumer’s ability to live successfully in the community by maintaining tenancy in community housing. TMS increases the consumer’s ability to live as independently as possible, managing their illness, and reestablishing their community roles related to emotional, social safety, housing, medical and health, educational, vocational, and legal services. TMS provides structured rehabilitative interventions and works in partnership with the individual’s behavioral health service provider.

90% of members participating in services were able to both obtain and maintain their housing in 2019. Only 5% were discharged from the program because they needed a higher level of care. And the program is working with 98% of consumers are on four or more social determinants of health in addition to their housing needs.

Enhanced crisis response: The enhanced crisis response (ECR) service is intended to put supports in place as quickly as possible for youth with behavioral health needs that are at risk for abandonment, crisis episodes, or being placed in restrictive levels of care. With timely assessments and supports, ECR is intended to keep youth in their environment—such as non-therapeutic foster homes, kinship placements—or minimize needs for long stays in residential treatment. Services last 60 to 90 days on average. SPARC staff work with consumers and families to diffuse the imminent crisis and get the family linked to appropriate community-based services that allow the consumer to thrive and meet their goals.

71% of youth who were discharged from the program in 2019 were able to be discharged into the community with community-based services.

Overall, SPARC’s services received an average customer satisfaction rating of 4.6 stars on a 5-point scale. The net promoter score (based on consumers and families sharing the likelihood that they would refer others to SPARC services) was 4.3 stars.

Benefits Of Value-Based Reimbursement

Ms. Hermann explained that value-based treatment has incentivized service quality and built more staff buy-in for outcomes-driven treatment, afforded flexibility, and proved to be good for business development. She said, “We knew that the landscape of health care is shifting to value-based care, we want to jump in with both feet and have skin in the game. It forced us to say doing ‘A-level’ work isn’t good enough, we need to do ‘A-plus’ work. We committed to a pretty aggressive value-based contract because without that, we knew this would not be a sustainable model.”

The value-based model drives performance-based compensation incentives for staff, which increases their buy-in for achieving better outcomes. Ms. Hermann elaborated, “If a client is in crisis, the therapist response at eight o’clock at night is not just ‘Well go to the emergency room.’ Sometimes that’s a needed intervention but often it’s not. They know that once somebody goes to the emergency room, the whole treatment plan can get derailed. And so our clinicians want to go the extra mile, not only because it’s the right thing to do but also because we have some skin in the game. It creates just a little shift for them at the frontline level, so that they’re committed to providing unique services and really engage in creative problem solving.”

The services SPARC delivers under value-based contracts are labeled “in lieu of services” and have been designated by MCOs to meet an unmet need in their communities. Therefore service definitions afford more freedom and flexibility and avoid the need to fit the treatment model into a state plan amendment service definition which sometimes can be like “fitting a square peg in a round hole.” The VBR model is also designed to reduce administrative burden on provider organizations and payers. For example, given that FCT as an EBP is known to typically discharge families with successful outcomes after six months of treatment, six months of services are authorized at the outset. So instead of wrangling submissions for authorization, clinical professionals can focus on delivering needed services. And the intensity of treatment can be increased or decreased depending on current needs. “If a crisis happens and we need to increase the intensity and frequency of services, we don’t have to go back to that payer and request more time and risk potential denial. That is a huge difference between some of our fee-for-service vs. value based contracts,” said Ms. Herrmann.

Value-based contracting has created opportunity for SPARC to expand its mission to keep consumers out of institutional care. And it has allowed stakeholders to see their innovation and that creativity and to come to them when there are new needs. “It has allowed us to have opportunities that I’m not sure we would’ve had if we’d come in as a provider saying we want to do regular fee-for-service contracting,” Ms. Hermann said.

What’s next? As SPARC moves into providing more services for mild and moderate mental illnesses and pursues contracts with commercial insurance, value-based contracting will continue to define their business development efforts. They plan to work with their MCOs to move from an individual consumer focus to applying a population health lens in their VBR models. They are also looking to focus more on whole-person value-based care and to and certify and train staff to become a “care management agency” as part of North Carolina’s Medicaid transformation (see North Carolina Extends Deadline For Tailored Plan Care Management Applications To June 1, 2021). In addition to Cardinal Innovations Healthcare and Partners Behavioral Health Management, SPARC has entered into contracts with five more managed care organizations appointed by North Carolina Medicaid—WellCare of NC, AmeriHealth Caritas of NC, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of NC, United Healthcare of NC, and Carolina Complete Health, Inc. As these new MCOs get ready for value-based care—once they understand their new consumers and the needs—SPARC is well-poised to leverage their experience and hit the ground running. “We’re really committed to continuing to learn more and doing more in the value based space,” summarized Ms. Herrmann.

The Future Is 2020 In The Rearview Mirror: A 2021 Forecast

The COVID-19 pandemic caused major shifts throughout organizations, industries, and the entire world. The behavioral health and human services market is no exception. As we look back on 2020, there were some short-term tactics that we anticipated would be around for a while to allow provider organizations to create stability, resiliency, and success while weathering the ‘new normal’ we have all been faced with.

Monica Oss, Chief Executive Officer of OPEN MINDS, delivered this presentation on April 6, 2021, and shared insights on how far the behavioral health and human services industry has come since the COVID-19 pandemic struck just over one-year ago.

Learning Objectives:

  • The 12 critical actions successful leaders were taking last year to combat market challenges, and which are still being utilized today
  • How organizations are keeping their employees engaged and motivated to avoid burnout
  • Preparing for the ‘next normal’ – transitioning to the post-pandemic environment

 

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Eight Tips To Ensure Your Organization Keeps Innovating Post-Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to many technology innovations in health care. The most noticeable transformation is the rise of telehealth with claims skyrocketing from less than 0.01% of total visits to 80% of behavioral health visits during the first quarter of the pandemic (see How’s That Strategic Plan Going?). We predict consumers and payers alike will continue to expect virtual service delivery as part of everyday service long after the pandemic has ended. How can organizations can continue innovating after . . .

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Providing Stability & Innovation During Changing Times: Introducing Paul Ricci, CEO of Qualifacts + Credible

As the instability of the evolving health and human service market continues, executive teams across the nation are facing new and unprecedented challenges. The top question on all of our minds? How can we bring stability to our organizations – and ensure sustainability in the months ahead?

Re-thinking longstanding strategies and adopting new, innovative, customer-focused strategies are rarely ‘top of mind’ for executives operating in uncertain times… but while searching for a ‘roadmap’ to stability, successful leaders often find that innovation is the best path to success.

Monica E. Oss, OPEN MINDS’  CEO, and Paul Ricci, CEO of the newly merged Qualifacts + Credible organization, are two industry leaders who’ve embraced innovation to lead their organizations through current and past market disruptions. Join these two leaders for a unique discussion about how innovation, technology adoption, and customer-focused approaches can be the keys you need to unlock stability for your organization in today’s market.

Building The Leadership Team For Tomorrow

This presentation was delivered by OPEN MINDS Senior Associate Paul Duck on February 11, 2021 at The 2021 OPEN MINDS Performance Management Institute. In the presentation, Mr. Duck discussed how to build a leadership team that brokers new ideas and drives change by leveraging organizational culture; create an engaged workforce that fits with your organization’s culture; and best practices for recruiting and retaining top talent.

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The 2021 OPEN MINDS Performance Management Executive Survey: Where Are We On The Road To Value

The results are in! Download the 2021 OPEN MINDS Performance Management Executive Survey eBook: Where Are We On The Road To Value.

The survey was presented at The 2021 OPEN MINDS Performance Management Institute by OPEN MINDS Chief Executive Officer, Monica E. Oss.

The survey tracks adoption of value-based reimbursement by specialty provider organizations, including the dominant models and performance measures used. The survey will provide direction on how to make sure your organization keeps pace with the rest of the field.

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Leading Through Change: An Interview With David Klements, CEO, Qualifacts + Credible Behavioral Health

This presentation was delivered on October 29, 2020 at The 2020 OPEN MINDS Executive Leadership Retreat. In the presentation, the speakers discussed leadership best practices during one of the most complicated business scenarios—mergers and acquisitions.

The presentation speakers included:

  • David Klements, President & Chief Executive Officer, Qualifacts + Credible
  • Monica E. Oss, Chief Executive Officer, OPEN MINDS
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Becoming A CCBHC: What I Wish I Had Known From An Executive Perspective

This presentation was delivered on October 29, 2020 at The 2020 OPEN MINDS Executive Leadership Retreat. In the presentation, the speakers discussed the executive’s role in two major strategy elements when moving toward the Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic (CCBHC) model, including how to support the team through great “change management” as the CCBHC brings with it new services, new programs, new credential types, and new business processes; and how to prepare the team for an environment of Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI).

The presentation speakers included:

  • Sarah Ackerman, MBA, Chief Executive Officer, Western Mental Health . . .

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A Game Plan for Building a Sustainable Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic (CCBHC)

The goal of the Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics (CCBHC) is to improve patient care across the healthcare spectrum, serving highly complex patients while avoiding the use of high-cost, low-return care models though community-based alternatives that improve care management. Based on the success of the first wave of CCHBC’s, Congress has acted five times to extend the demonstration project and has allocated $450 million (to date) for CCBHC expansion grants. The number of CCBHC’s have expanded from 66 in 2015, to 166 in 2020.  The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has embraced the CCBHC concept of integrated care and behavioral health providers, who have long supported integrated care, are now looking to the CCBHC model as an economically viable way to support this model of care.

Indeed, CCBHC’s have an excellent opportunity to be leaders in the new integrated healthcare system if they can display the following specific values:

  1. Accessibility: All needed services – mental health, substance abuse treatment, and physical health care – are provided in-house or quickly, in proximity, within the community.
  2. Efficiency: Multiple services can be provided daily, with one patient visit instead of multiple visits.
  3. Connection: Electronic Health Records (EHR) are used across service lines to produce and track clinical and quality metrics.
  4. Accountability: A commitment to producing the array of quality metrics required for quarterly reporting, in nearly real time.
  5. Adaptability: A commitment to using bundled payment arrangements that help clinics adopt and utilize alternative payment models instead of fee-for-service.

To meet these core values, provider organizations, in many cases, have had to update their organization’s service lines, hire new staff, and implement or update Electronic Health Record systems (EHRs). These changes represent substantial economic and human resource expenses. While enhanced reimbursement and up-front grant dollars have helped to offset the expense, it still begs the question: “How does an organization sustain the model beyond the grant period?” (https://vbcforbh.com/are-you-really-ready-for-value-based-payment/)

Thinking Beyond Grant Funding

The recipients of the 2020 CCBHC Expansion Grant the funding stream are only guaranteed funding for two years. A few considerations are important. The first is that funding may not be renewed. Considering potential fiscal deficits expected from the COVID epidemic, there is a distinct possibility that additional funding will not be there. A second possibility is that state funding may supplant federal funding. As states grapple with the aftermath of a pandemic, fewer state dollars will be available.  Already, Nevada has made a 6% cut to Medicaid dollars (https://vbcforbh.com/nevada-moves-forward-with-6-medicaid-fee-for-service-rate-cut/).

SAMSHA was abundantly clear that grant participants should not expect more federal support. The newest round of grantees were given the task to: “Develop and implement plans for sustainability to ensure delivery of services once federal funding ends. Recipients should not anticipate the continued renewal of federal funding to support this effort. Federal funding is subject to funding availability and is also subject to a competitive grant award process. Recipients must develop and implement sustainability plans to ensure continued service once the grant ends. Recipients will be asked to report on sustainability plans” (https://www.samhsa.gov/sites/default/files/grants/pdf/fy-2020-ccbhc-foa.pdf).

The long-term sustainability of CCBHC programming requires a strategic response.

Community Behavioral Health Clinic (CCBHC) Sustainability and Value-Based Reimbursement

The CCBHC’s with an eye toward a future will be looking for alternative revenue streams immediately. The good news is that the CCBHC infrastructure of data driven health care focused on improved outcomes and diminished costs is an ideal match for payers who are looking for lower cost interventions and improved population health, and are using Value Based Reimbursement (VBR) to meet these goals.

The organizational readiness for CCBHC implementation has laid the groundwork for Value Based Programming.  The development of Evidenced Based Practices, addition of service lines, hiring new staff, affiliations with emergency care, adoption enhanced payment processes, and implementing and updating you Electronic Health Records (EHR) to capture clinical and quality data has positioned CCBHC to think about working with both private and public payers.

A Growing Value Based Culture

The OPEN MINDS 2019 State-By-State Update found that 28 of the 40 states with Medicaid managed care require health plans to implement alternative payment arrangements (APMs) with provider organizations. This is up from 22 states out of 39 states in 2017. And Value-Based processes are at the center of the trend. Organizational readiness for VBR follows a defined path:

(See OPEN MINDS Are You Really Ready for Value-Based Payment?)

The CCBHC is already this path, developing a VBR infrastructure. The next step is to define the unique value proposition of the CCBHC.

Defining the Unique Value Proposition to New Payors

A successful sustainability plan keeps the following goals in mind:

  • Have the Data: Understand internal unit costs and key performance indicators (KPI). Fortunately, the data needed to do this can be found in your CCBHC data. Use this to data to develop a picture of what the CCBHC does well, and where there are opportunities for improvement. Knowing strengths and possible risks will be important guides in rate negotiations.
  • Know the Customer: Research the payers in the market. For the health plans and accountable care organizations, know their structure and customers, their current service delivery network, executive teams, and their enrollment in your service areas. A CCBHC plan has flexibility to meet the changing needs of the marketplace. Alignment with those needs will make a CCBHC more attractive to payers that need services.  (See What Are Health Plans Actually Doing? and Trends in Behavioral Health: A Population Health Manager’s Reference Guide on the U.S. Behavioral Health Financing and Delivery System).
  • Prepare for the End-Game. Think about future meetings with health plan executives to discuss current contracts and proposed services as the CCBHC plan is developed. Be prepared with a proposal and assess readiness for newer payment models (Use the Value-Based Reimbursement Readiness Assessment).

Build Relationships Now

Avoid scrambling at the last moment for new funding streams. Remember, payers know that mental health and substance use disorders are the leading causes of disease burden in America.  This is further exacerbated by co-morbidities faced by people with mental health and substance use disorders who also suffer from cardiovascular disease, and diabetes, and other chronic diseases. The CCBHC is addressing this issue head on and that needs to be highlighted. To do this you can start by doing the following:

  • Build relationships with payers immediately: Reach as high into the payer organization as possible to develop those relationships. Then attempt to establish formal touchpoints. A scorecard with quarterly data will provide updates on key points that may be of value to the health plan. These interactions need to be succinct and to the point.
  • Develop a Pitch Deck: Prepare a brief (one or two slide) value story that describes how the CCBHC’s programs are differentiated in terms of quality and costs, and how they contribute to health care cost savings for the payer.
  • Leverage Informal Meetings: Attend conferences and industry meetings with target payers. These less formal venues allow for additional touchpoints to reiterate the value the CCBHC brings to the table, and the differentiating strengths.

Finally, connecting with health plans comes down to persistence.  Provider organizations need to find the right contact in network management, or whoever is leading their local plan and continue to reach out. In the end, relationship-building is still based on quality communication. The CCBHC model is the perfect framework to build relationships with payer organizations.