Two Beacon programs help to shape American healthcare landscape

For approximately 35 years, Beacon Health Options has worked to deliver on a fundamental yet singularly important goal: helping people live their lives to their fullest potential by driving and supporting evidence-based, integrated care. Today, Beacon serves more than 40 million members, but the company’s efforts extend to all Americans as it strives to improve the US healthcare delivery system at large.

Last month, Beacon’s efforts bore fruit when the Health Resources and Services Administration announced a $12.4 million award for two programs that aim to support the mental health of women and children nationwide – two programs based on Beacon’s Massachusetts Child Psychiatry Access Program (MCPAP) and MCPAP for Moms. The grants were part of the enactment of the 21st Century Cures Act, which incorporates the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Reform Act of 2016.

More specifically, $7.9 million of the grant will support 18 states to integrate primary care and behavioral health using telehealth services through the Pediatric Mental Health Access Program. Through this program, pediatric behavioral health specialists provide tele-consultation and technical assistance for primary care physicians (PCPs) caring for children with behavioral health conditions. An additional $4.5 million will support seven states in addressing maternal depression through the Screening and Treatment for Maternal Depression and Related Behavioral Health Disorders Program, which provides real-time perinatal psychiatric consultation and training to help PCPs and other providers screen and treat pregnant and postpartum women for depression and other behavioral health conditions.

MCPAP breaks ground

As the expression goes, necessity is the mother of invention, and MCPAP is no exception. The Surgeon General’s Report of 2000 documented the persisting difficulty in accessing child psychiatry due to a shortage of specialists, coupled with a rise in childhood behavioral health conditions. Consequently, PCPs have had to fill the void, in spite of their lack of specialty training.

To address this access challenge, the University of Massachusetts Medical School piloted a program in 2003 to provide telephonic psychiatric consultation for PCPs. A year later, Beacon’s Massachusetts Behavioral Health Partnership and the Department of Mental Health collaborated to adapt the model for statewide implementation. Since then, more than 25 states have developed their own child psychiatry consultation programs based on the MCPAP model.

The HRSA’s grant of two programs based on the MCPAP model is an excellent example of how Beacon and other healthcare organizations can effect change in concrete ways for the system at large.

The natural extension of MCPAP is a program that can address the pressing mental health challenges of new or about-to-be mothers. Indeed, one out of every seven women experience depression during pregnancy or in the postpartum period, 60% developing symptoms before the baby is born. Like PCPs, obstetricians lack the necessary behavioral health expertise to treat these conditions prenatally. Conversely, many psychiatric providers lack the expertise to treat women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. MCPAP for Moms, therefore, provides real-time perinatal psychiatric consultation for obstetric, pediatric, primary care and psychiatric providers.

Delivering on the promise

To help people live complete and healthy lives, Beacon pushes clinical innovation to solve the most urgent and complex mental health challenges, while also working towards ensuring access to high-quality, integrated care. The HRSA’s grant of two programs based on the MCPAP model is an excellent example of how Beacon and other healthcare organizations can effect change in concrete ways for the system at large.

“The challenges facing healthcare are daunting and at times seem insurmountable,” said John Straus, MD, Medical Director Special Projects at Beacon and MCPAP founding director and innovator. “However, MCPAP and MCPAP for Moms are excellent examples of how we can use and apply the tools available to us to deliver care in a new and innovative way. Telehealth, combined with specialty expertise, fills those gaps in care that seemed so impossible to fill. A simple yet highly effective solution.”

Beacon Lens has posted many blogs calling on system stakeholders to collaborate on initiatives to improve healthcare for all Americans, and we’re proud to see two programs based on Beacon initiatives become part of the American healthcare landscape.

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