Announcement Date: April 9, 2018

On April 9th, 2018, Connecticut State Legislators, health care lobbyists and safety net advocates gathered in Hartford, CT for an informational briefing organized by the Connecticut Nonprofit Alliance on behavioral health and Connecticut’s economy. Pressing issues facing Connecticut’s legislature include mental health parity and criminal justice treatment access for comorbid disorders. Connecticut has traditionally been a leader when it comes to mental health resources and criminal justice reform, but has been falling behind due to budgetary issues over the past few years.

Dr. Michael Menchine of the USC Schaeffer Center for Health Policy and Economics presented in-depth data analysis from Connecticut and the United States at-large. Kate Davidson of The National Council for Behavioral Health discussed the complexity of mental health parity and regional trends for providing substance use disorder treatment in correctional settings.

A key take-away acknowledged by state legislators is that there is a disconnect between what Connecticut is currently spending on behavioral health care and outcomes. This is common in many states, as often corrections facilities, like prisons and hospitals, bear the brunt of behavioral health costs due to a lack of community-based treatment options. Investment in behavioral health care in the community can drive down the much more expensive costs associated with hospitalizations or incarceration. Furthermore, Connecticut providers are dis-incentivized to provide services in-network for private insurances holders or for Medicaid beneficiaries due to low reimbursement rates. This significantly impacts access in a state where 52% of residents are in mental health provider shortage areas.

State legislators are concerned over the persisting stigma around treating mental illness and Dr. Menchine agreed that substantial barriers still exist beyond costs. While he has seen significant innovation in physical health care and supportive re-entry services for post-op patients, these advancements have not taken place at the same speed within mental health care, specifically when it comes to schizophrenia. In Los Angeles, where Dr. Menchine practices medicine, his hospital has partnered with a local behavioral health clinic to release emergency room patients so they get the care they need.

Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics (CCBHCs) were also of interest to legislators, as Ms. Davidson highlighted early data showing that integrated behavioral health care that is properly funded can reduce strain and costs for states struggling to meet the needs of their residents.

State legislators expressed their intent to continue to support the passage of mental health parity legislation (S.B. No. 384) and increased substance use disorder treatment in correctional facilities (S.B. No. 172).