“Behavioral Health Is Part of Overall Health”

“Behavioral Health is part of overall Health,” said Debra Osteen, NAPHS board chair and president of behavioral health, Universal Health Services, Inc. at the start of the recent NAPHS Annual Meeting in Washington, DC. This statement came as no surprise to the many Mental Health professionals attending this yearly conference.

Speaker after speaker talked about the state of mental health care today and the need to seamlessly integrate Mental Health services into the overall medical care provided by family practice physicians and patient care facilities of all types. Because of “parity” legislation passed in congress in 2008 and the passage just last year of legislation for $1B funding  for mental health care for 2017 and 2018, one would have thought a mood of jubilation or at least a sense of well-being would have been present in the conference hall of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Conference Center.  Instead, the general mood was one of despondence.

The increasing effects of the opioid pandemic are on the minds of all health care professionals. The number of baby boomers who are aging and will need increasing medical services is clear to everyone. Yet, no one knows or can accurately predict how the repeal of the ACA and the proposals for new Republican health care legislation currently being debated in the House of Representatives will affect the future delivery of health care services in America. Various presenters spoke about how funding for Medicaid will be decimated, how future Medicare changes might likely come about, how billions of dollars will be removed from the budget for health care and how millions of Americans will lose access to services. One questioner, at a lunch session presentation by Hemi Tewarson, acting director for National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, Health Division stated, “No matter how you slice and dice it, Congress is proposing to remove $800 B from the budget for healthcare services and nothing is being proposed to replace it.  How then are we, the health care professionals, going to deliver services to the most needy or to anyone, for that matter? ” General applause greeted this question. And no real answer was forthcoming.