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Covering state lawmakers, bills, and policy emerging from Jefferson City.

Missouri Three Months Into Excellence in Mental Care Act Pilot Program

Roy Blunt
Scott Harvey

U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt says “Nothing will be more innovative than treating behavioral health like all other health.”  

That’s the goal behind the Excellence in Mental Care Act, which the Missouri Republican introduced alongside Michigan Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow in 2014. It puts community mental health centers on an equal footing with other health centers.

“Any door you open to get healthcare looks at all of your healthcare problems and deals with your problems in that way,” Blunt said Wednesday morning during a stop at Burrell Behavioral Health.

The Excellence in Mental Care Act officially launched in July in Missouri and seven other states that were accepted into a two-year pilot program. For participating states, it sets quality standards for community mental health centers, increases citizens’ access to such facilities and improves Medicaid reimbursement for those services.

“The real difference for Missouri and these eight states is providers can suddenly look at eight places in the country and really 15 organizations and 200 locations in our state where the provider’s actually gonna get paid. That encourages providers. So we’ll be at a competitive advantage for a while for providers,” said Blunt.

Dr. C.J. Davis, president and CEO of Burrell, says the legislation provides the funding for its organization and others to expand services to help more individuals. It also focuses on recovery, wellness and healthcare integration, Davis says.

“The CCBHC [Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics] act allows us to partner with the medical world in ways that mental health’s never partnered with medicine before. So it’s extremely innovative.”

President and CEO of the Missouri Coalition for Community Behavioral Healthcare, Brent McGinty, says the act creates a “System of no wrong door for people that need care.”  

Blunt notes he introduced the legislation because the nation is well behind where it needs to be in serving those with behavioral health issues.

“The National Institute of Health says one in four adult Americans has a diagnosable and almost always treatable behavioral health issue, and they say that one in nine adult Americans has a behavioral health issue that impact how they live every single day,” Blunt said.

He adds the country has turned law enforcement and emergency rooms into the de facto mental health delivery system.

“And it’s outrageous. Nobody is well served by that.”

While the effectiveness of the pilot study won’t be known for some time, officials are optimistic of the outcomes and think it will encourage other states to get involved.

“I think it’s fair to assume that if you ever really begin to treat behavioral health like all other health, we don’t think states will go backwards,” Blunt says. “And what we do think that states will find out and communities will find out is that the other health issues that people who also have behavioral health challenges have are so much more easily dealt with if you’re dealing with the behavioral health issue.”  

He notes some county studies have already been able to examine the impact of such practices, and found that it doesn’t cost anything to put community mental health centers on an equal footing with other health centers. In some cases, he says, counties have turned a profit.

The pilot program, also called the demonstration project, runs through June 30, 2019.

Last week, Blunt introduced legislation to extend the Excellence in Mental Health demonstration program for one year for the eight participating states. The bill would also expand the program to 11 more states that have applied.

Follow Scott Harvey on Twitter: @scottksmu