By DMH Commissioner Barbara A. Leadholm, M.S., M.B.A.
On October 26, the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts (BCBS) Foundation, the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health (DMH), and the Massachusetts Health Policy Forum will jointly host a forum entitled, “Beyond Parity: Mental Health and Addiction Care Under Delivery System and Payment Reform.” The forum offers a unique and timely opportunity to educate the community at large about the Affordable Care Act (ACA), health care delivery systems, health care cost containment and how the confluence of these major policy shifts will affect Massachusetts residents. The forum has attracted more than 350 leaders in mental health, behavioral health, health policy, higher education, insurance and other business as well as consumers, providers and advocates. The convening of all of these thought leaders reflects a growing interest in discussion around new laws and the development of policy on the rapidly changing way health care systems do business and deliver care. Many of these changes will directly affect residents with mental health and addiction disorders.
I am delighted and honored that the BCBS Foundation and the Mass. Health Policy Forum are partnering with DMH to help us understand and shape the debate as the Commonwealth prepares to implement provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). I sincerely hope that this forum will give participants the chance to work together in real time to critically examine how these major policy initiatives will impact care for individuals with mental health and addiction disorders.
During the opening session, I will be joined by a stellar panel of experts from here and other states to begin the forum. Moderated by Harvard Medical School’s Richard G. Frank, who is the Margaret T. Morris Professor of Health Economics at the Medical School’s Department of Health Care Policy, other panelists include the Honorable Steven M. Walsh, chair of the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing; Colleen L. Barry, associate professor, Department of Health Policy and Management at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health; Michael Botticelli, director of the Department of Public Health’s Bureau of Substance Abuse Services; Daniel B. Fisher, executive director of the National Empowerment Center; Colleen Labelle, program director and faculty member at Boston University’s School of Medicine; and Paul Mendis, chief medical officer for Neighborhood Health Plan.
Massachusetts is on the cutting edge of improving the quality of care and the well-being of individuals with mental health and addiction treatment needs in Massachusetts. Yet, we all understand that change does not come without the critical questions of how it will work on the ground. “Beyond Parity” will coalesce the thoughts and ideas of the incredibly diverse array of stakeholders and national experts; this probing dialogue will help us develop recommendations on how to integrate behavioral health and substance use disorders and ensure it is part of the next phase of health care reform in Massachusetts, cost containment.
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