In an effort to increase mental health services for Arkansans, especially in rural parts of the state, the Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS) and the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) announced an $9.5 million, five-year mental health grant program on Tuesday (Oct. 10).
DHS partnered with UAMS, two federally qualified health centers (FQHCs), and the nonprofit Arkansas Behavioral Health Integration Network (ABIHIN) for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) grant.
The funds will implement a mental health and behavioral health collaborative care model at 36 clinics and health centers across the state. This model links patients, primary care providers, behavioral health care managers, and psychiatric consultants. An electronic registry also is used as part of this model to track patient treatment and progress. These reforms will streamline health care, improve coordination and make it easier to connect patients with psychiatric services.
“Too many Arkansans are struggling with mental health challenges. Smart health care investments, like this initiative, can help us save money and treat Arkansans who need help,” said Paula Stone, director of the Office of Substance Abuse and Mental Health within DHS. “There is a need for early identification of behavioral health needs across our state. These funds will help us increase access to services for a significant population, which will in turn prevent the need for crisis and other services in the future. We are grateful for the support of our partners and look forward to fully implementing this program.”
UAMS will initially add the collaborative model at three clinics and then expand its availability at additional sites through the rest of the grant period. The FQHCs will follow a similar implementation plan.
“Mental illnesses are managed predominantly by primary care clinicians,” said Shashank Kraleti, chair of the UAMS Department of Family and Preventative Medicine. “This grant will bolster the work that UAMS has been doing in integrating behavioral health personnel into all our primary care clinics, which provide much needed access to comprehensive care to the communities in the state.”
The grant will also fund the creation of a planning council that will work to make resources available for other primary care clinics across the state and support expanding the collaborative care model to other sites.
Earlier this year, Gov. Sarah Sanders signed into law Act 615, which requires private insurers to reimburse collaborative care billing codes. The Arkansas Medicaid program has promulgated a new manual that allows reimbursements for screenings and for primary care physicians to submit claims for counselors providing services in their offices.