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Bigby_JudyAnn_2Posted by:
JudyAnn Bigby, MD, Secretary of Health and Human Services

 

Improving wellness and quality of health care for every resident in the Commonwealth is a top priority for the Executive Office of Health and Human Services. To that end, the Patrick-Murray Administration has launched a number of initiatives designed to encourage residents to actively participate in maintaining their overall health and wellness, whether by increasing physical activity or reducing behaviors such as smoking and tobacco use, which are linked to increased risk of death and disease.

We have also made great strides to ensure that every resident has access to health coverage and preventive care services. Thanks to our landmark health care reform, Massachusetts became the first state in the nation to achieve near universal health coverage, with 97 percent of residents covered. Similarly, 88 percent of residents report that they received preventive care services between 2008 and 2009. While these accomplishments are commendable, we still have a lot to do with respect to ensuring access to care and eliminating health disparities.


A New York Times article from December 2009 reported on a study that revealed that in several states children covered by Medicaid are more likely to be prescribed antipsychotic drugs to treat ADHD and other “conduct disorders” than children covered by private insurance. This study not only illustrates the role that economic factors play in health disparities, it increases awareness of why our health care, social services and education systems must work together to serve children. Overuse of these powerful drugs has been shown to lead to weight gain and other associated chronic diseases among children covered by Medicaid, which in turn affects the health and wellness of our communities overall and contributes to the rising costs of health care. 

Here in the Commonwealth, we have taken steps to reduce disparities in behavioral health among children and to make sure children have appropriate alternatives to prescription drugs. The Children’s Behavioral Health Initiative (CBHI) assists families and caregivers of MassHealth-enrolled children through universal screening for behavioral health conditions during routine “well-child” visits, provides for improved behavioral health clinical assessments, and offers six home and community-based behavioral health services across the state. These services include: In-Home Therapy, Intensive Care Coordination, Mobile Crisis Intervention, In-Home Behavioral Services, Therapeutic Mentoring and Family Support and Training (Family Partners). These services are delivered through a newly created behavioral health network of more than 250 local clinical partnerships. Care is child-centered and family-driven, and clinical care is developed in close partnership with the child’s family.

By developing partnerships between families and caregivers that build upon each family’s individual strengths and needs, CBHI seeks positive outcomes for children with behavioral health concerns. At a recent visit to one of the providers responsible for delivering these services, one parent of a teenager with significant mental health needs told me, “I am the mother of a 15-year old teen who has struggled with mental illness her whole life. I am thankful for the new CBHI services and the help we have received from her care coordinator and Care Planning Team. Now when I go to meetings and they ask me ‘how is she doing?’ they’re actually listening to me – her mom, the person who knows her better than anyone in the room. My daughter is improving: she is less depressed and sleeping more than before. For the first time since she was born, I feel myself relaxing.”

 

The health of the community affects us all individually. To help decrease health disparities among individuals with behavioral health needs, children with behavioral health problems need their doctors, teachers, and behavioral health providers to work with their families. Reducing these disparities ultimately leads to healthier communities for all of us and reduces the overall costs of health care.

Written By:


Communications Office

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