Collaboration is key in mental healthcare

April 1, 2014

Break down silos to improve access and affordability

There continues to be a wide gap in many of today’s healthcare conversations, and they have produced little in the way of concrete or practical changes in our broken mental healthcare system. 

What we are missing is a constructive and cohesive plan based on practices and programs, and notably, access to care. One major change that must happen now is to create an environment of collaboration, where everyone in the mental healthcare system work and practice together. 

We made an important step in the right direction last year when President Obama reinforced 2008’s Mental Health Parity Law, which will allow those with mental illness to be covered the same way as someone who walks into a physician’s office with a fever.  This, together with mental healthcare being recognized as one of the 10 Essential Health Benefit coverage categories, pushes this much-overlooked issue onto a dimly lit stage to an audience of healthcare providers. 

Insurers work in their area, case management and related supportive services work in another, residential treatment programs are in their corner, and both inpatient and outpatient programs live and work in their own silos, too.  In my mental health practice, I work across all of these areas, but I have to admit, sometimes I’m also in my silo. It is time to break down the silos and work collectively with one another. 

More communication, better care

I talk to, you, the insurers, as those who actively work in the mental healthcare system and see these disparities.  I believe the only way to fix this problem is to work more collaboratively.  

I propose opening channels of communication between the different mental healthcare areas through one single source.  Think of it as a central database, a place where health insurers can meet with clinical and legal professionals to find out where they can get an individual with mental healthcare issues the appropriate care, what facilities are nearby and who covers what. As it stands now, there is no place for professionals to access this type of information.

Insurers don’t understand the legal process behind mental healthcare, and lawyers can’t make medical decisions for their clients. By breaking down the silos, we can bring together the true resources, at less cost. We can involve individuals in treatments that are a better fit, more appropriate and supportive, and wrap them in a plan of action and intervention that is both accessible and affordable through
insurers. 

Breaking down silos makes sense in the business world, the campus setting, the workplace and the community at large. Better communication in any setting means better outcomes. Mental healthcare continues to be in the forefront; let’s take the next steps and work together to form a constructive, realistic and real-time approach. 

What are we waiting for? We know the issues, the studies, the conversations and the best practices. Let’s bring those together now. Waiting longer hasn’t worked.

Carolyn Wolf is an executive partner in the law firm Abrams, Fensterman, Fensterman, Eisman, Formato, Ferrara & Wolf, LLP and director of the firm’s mental health law practice.