LTC and mental health services: Collaboration is a financial win-win

Establishing collaborative business models and financing strategies for providing mental healthcare to seniors needs to become a priority before the boomers arrive, and primary care and insurers can gain marketshare by delivering more community services, according to a new publication from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and the Administration for Community Living’s Administration on Aging (AoA).

Seniors who have multiple chronic conditions, mobility challenges, chronic pain or functional deficiencies can have multiple behavioral health needs as well, notes the brief, "Financing and Sustaining Older Adult Behavioral Health and Supportive Services." "Behavioral health issues, such as depression, anxiety, substance abuse and misuse, and suicidal thoughts, can lead to unhealthy lifestyle and care decisions," the brief explains. 'Physical health issues, such as chronic diseases, can have a negative impact on mental health and reduce an individual’s ability to participate in treatment and recovery."

But providers can secure their positions in the community with an early entry into this underserved market sector, the briefing notes. "Behavioral health, physical health, and aging providers can capitalize on new opportunities by positioning themselves as a specialty provider of long-term services and supports."

Providers, insurers and community organizations need to discover additional ways to finance mental health support services, especially those that are solely dependent on Medicare. Current funding sources include Medicare and Medicaid, Title III programs, SAMHSA block grants, state aging services funds and others. But dependence on these funds is risky in the current era of budget deficits and widescale cuts to federal and state programs.

Instead, primary care and long-term care providers should explore partnerships with mental health community services, or consider providing the services themselves internally. Meanwhile,  "community providers can greatly improve their chances for sustainability by successfully integrating themselves into new provider collaborations," resulting in a win-win, the brief states.

The publication is part of a series of topic briefs produced jointly by the two organizations. A related topic is available in the brief "Screening and Preventive Brief Interventions for Alcohol and Psychoactive Medication Misuse/Abuse."

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