Articles

May 6th, 2020

Mass. AG settles with health plans on mental health parity compliance

By Janine Weisman

Seven insurers agree to policy changes, including correcting reimbursement disparities Seven health insurance plans are making policy changes and paying a combined total of nearly $1 million to fund initiatives to increase access to behavioral health care under recent settlement agreements with the Office of Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey. The policy changes by five health insurance companies and two companies that manage behavioral health coverage for other insurers are outlined in agreements filed Feb. 27 in Suffolk Superior Court. The changes address reimbursement rate disparities, eliminate unnecessary authorization requirements and improve the accuracy of provider directories. These settlements followed [More]

April 19th, 2020

Bill aims to improve access and boost workforce

By Catherine Robertson Souter

In a unanimous vote, the Massachusetts Senate recently passed a mental health-focused bill designed to bring sweeping changes to the way care is delivered across the state. Known as the Mental Health ABC Act: Addressing Barriers to Care, the bill outlines new approaches to mental health parity, access to care and to improving, supporting and increasing the mental health workforce. The bill is being touted as a breakthrough in creating a system designed to better meet the mental health care needs of the state’s 6.9 million residents. “For far too long, mental health has been a forgotten component of our [More]

October 9th, 2019

The Walker School completes extensive renovations

By Margarita Tartakovsky, MS

This past summer, the Walker School completed an extensive renovation to its campus, creating new classrooms, a gym, and other improvements to benefit its students who have various behavioral, emotional, and social challenges. Located in Needham, Mass., the Walker School is a private special education school for students ages five through 13. Previously, the Walker School had three buildings, one of which included a hexagon-shaped building from the 1960s, which their architect noted had “outlived its useful life,” said Danielle Wetmore, M.Ed., the principal at Walker. It wasn’t conducive for learning or for kids with social, emotional challenges.” It was [More]

October 9th, 2019

New England’s last holdout to limit clawbacks finally passes law

By Janine Weisman

Health insurance companies now have a 12-month window to retroactively deny claims they already paid for mental health and substance abuse services in Massachusetts. Language imposing the time restriction on so-called clawbacks was included in the final fiscal 2020 state budget signed into law by Gov. Charlie Baker on July 31. The budget incorporated language from bills in the Senate and House of Representatives that sought to end what mental health providers have long considered an unfair business practice. No time limit for clawbacks previously existed in Massachusetts, while other New England states had laws requiring health plans to initiate [More]

May 29th, 2019

Massachusetts bans conversion therapy for minors

By Eileen Weber

Massachusetts became the 16th state to ban conversion therapy, a method attempting to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity by treating it as if it’s a mental illness. Sometimes referred to as “reparative therapy,” tactics range from shaming the person to using painful physical stimulation like electric shocks. In early April, Governor Charlie Baker signed into law a bill banning licensed health care professionals from providing this practice to anyone under 18. Fifteen other states and Washington D.C. have already banned conversion therapy, with California being the first in 2012. Massachusetts joins Vermont, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and [More]

May 13th, 2019

North Shore Medical Center project underway to increase number of psychiatric beds

By Eileen Weber

North Shore Medical Center received approval from Massachusetts state regulators to increase its number of psychiatric beds. Plans for what will be called the Epstein Center for Behavioral Health include a total of 120 adult, geriatric, and pediatric beds. The facility is slated to open this fall. The expansion project had a few glitches after the hospital and its parent company, Partners Healthcare, scaled back the plans in 2016 because of financial losses. Now back on track, the expansion is an attempt to tackle what is a nationwide issue—having enough psychiatric care available so that patients don’t end up in [More]

May 11th, 2019

Baystate Health, US HealthVest to build hospital

By Phyllis Hanlon

In February, Baystate Health, a not-for-profit integrated healthcare system that serves more than 800,000 people across western Massachusetts, announced plans to construct and operate a new behavioral health hospital in this region of the Commonwealth. The project is a joint venture between Baystate Health and US HealthVest, a nationally known for-profit behavioral health care company that partners with existing health systems to improve access and expand inpatient psychiatric care and substance abuse services to underserved populations. Shelly Hazlett, manager of public affairs for Baystate Health, provided a press release that offered details on the project. According to the release, the [More]

March 11th, 2019

Survey: Access to mental health, substance use disorder care is a challenge for Massachusetts adults

By Susan Gonsalves

Data from the 2018 Massachusetts Health Reform Survey showed that 56.8 percent of adults ages 19 to 64 who sought help for mental health or substance abuse disorders experienced difficulties obtaining care. The problems included finding a provider who would see them at all or getting an appointment in a timely manner when it was needed. As a result, more than one-third of those adults went without help and 12.7 percent visited an emergency department to address those issues. The Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation and Urban Institute collected the information using data from a random telephone survey involving 2,201 [More]

August 31st, 2018

Conversion therapy ban passes in New Hampshire, fails in Massachusetts and is vetoed in Maine

By Catherine Robertson Souter

In a movement that seems to be growing, a ban on mental health professionals providing conversion therapy for people under 18 has been signed into law in 15 states. There have been five bans this year alone. In June, New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu signed a bill banning the practice in that state. “There has been a real cultural shift,” said Shannon Bader, Ph.D, A.B.P.P., the legislative chair for the New Hampshire Psychological Association. “We were the 14th state with an outright ban.” Historically, conversion therapy has included everything from instruction on why and how to change to shaming the [More]

May 14th, 2018

Mass. increases beds, facilities while other states remain stable

By Phyllis Hanlon

The psychiatric care landscape has shifted in recent years from an inpatient setting to community placement and back to in-hospital treatment. New England Psychologist surveyed the New England states to assess the current inpatient situation. Kathleen Remillard, public information officer (PIO) at New Hampshire’s Department of Health and Human Services, reported that the state has had no psychiatric unit closures in the past year. Rather, New Hampshire has gained 20 new transitional housing beds for patients recently released from New Hampshire Hospital or other designated receiving facilities. Vermont has also added 20 youth psychiatric beds; and four mobile crisis apartments [More]