Sunday, January 11, 2009

One failure of the new Children's Mental Health Law

Does anyone remember seeing the movie, "Stuart Little," where the alley cats said sarcastically to the house cat, "A pet cat for a mouse." "How can that be?" In the real animal world, it is usually the cat that have the "pet mouses" and not vice versa. How does this example apply to the mental health field for children?

Mass Behavioral Health Partnership (MBHP) issued Alert # 55 (December 22nd 2008) stating new changes in how they will authorize Outpatient Mental Health Services for Adults and Children. As a FYI, adults, 19 years of age and older will get 12 units authorized for a 180 day period (six months), while children and adolescents, 18 years old and under will get 14 units authorized for a 180 day period (six months). However, if a child or adult needs additional sessions within this time period for example, weekly visits due to the severity of a client's mental health symptoms, MBHP now requires the clinician to have a telephonic meeting with them to scrutinize the updated treatment plan that is submitted to them for review.

This new procedure is highly insulting for a clinician to "beg" for more services from not only from MBHP but also from other health insurance providers who will be following the same protocol as well. I am aware of the economic climate to control costs in a shaky economy in the healthcare arena. However, it is the clinicians training and expertise in children's mental health that needs to be respected and not undermined by insurers.

While the new children' mental health law will have services in place for mobile crisis interventions and at home therapy interventions for families, it fails to advocate for improved outpatient services for children. It is the clinicians that know how long it will take to treat their clients' symptoms and not the insurers. If a child does not receive additional sessions within the authorized time period, the child will be at risk for hospitalization or residential treatment that will cost the insurance companies more money to pay for. Last but not least..this stricter requirement to "beg" for more sessions from "the big mouse" will not help retain and/or recruit clinicians to service children with mental health needs.

Robbin Miller

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