New Approach and Funding to Improve Behavioral Health Services in Louisiana

Recent data that measures rates of access to behavioral health services places the state of Louisiana in the fifth-lowest slot in the United States, just above the four lowest-ranking states of Washington, Nevada, Mississippi and Arizona.

This statistic is incredibly concerning given the high rates of mental illness found throughout Louisiana, and health officials are at work on a new plan that they hope will increase access to what could be lifesaving care.

A New Plan Means More Options

Under the old healthcare system, Louisiana’s 1.4 million Medicaid enrollees were all served by one single provider known as Magellan. But given the documented lack of access to services and supports for individuals suffering from mental or behavioral health concerns in the state, it became clear that new policies were needed.

Now the state is busy rolling out a new plan that includes a more multifaceted approach, as it is believed that the single network system created barriers to services, especially after a state-conducted audit found Magellan to be in violation of many terms of their contract.

A One-Stop Shop for Care

Geographic areas that lack a sufficient number of options for accessing quality treatment for addiction and behavioral health concerns are often the same areas with high levels of other types of healthcare needs.

Under Louisiana’s new system, Medicaid patients will now be served by five different insurance companies who will have the ability to treat substance abuse disorders, psychiatric illnesses, and other types of behavioral health concerns, in addition to providing other types of healthcare.

By blending together the capacity to treat both physical and mental health concerns under one umbrella program, it is believed that more Louisianans will be able to access the comprehensive care they need.

Increased Support for Behavioral Health Professionals

One additional barrier to receiving quality behavioral health care in the state of Louisiana and across the country is the shortage of licensed mental health professionals such as counselors, psychiatrists, and psychologists.

In order to help close this gap, The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has recently given $743,518 to Louisiana to support two behavioral health training programs at LSU and Southern University Systems. This money will be used to help program attendees secure internship placements that will provide communities, such as nearby Lafayette and Lafayette Parish, with much-needed health services, while providing students with the training they require to secure employment in the field of mental health after graduation.

According to HRSA Acting Administrator Jim Macrae, “the program emphasizes integrating behavioral health, primary care, violence awareness and prevention, and the involvement of families in the prevention and treatment of mental and substance use disorders,” all of which are issues of high importance for Louisiana’s most vulnerable populations.