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Ohio's Behavioral Health Redesign Aims to Better Integrate Physical & Behavioral Healthcare

On Friday, June 29, we attended a City Club program entitled Ohio's Next Step to Modernize Medicaid: The Behavioral Health Redesign, which featured a discussion between Ms. Tracy J. Plouck, Director of Ohio Mental Health and Addiction Services, and Ms. Barbara Sears, Director of the Ohio Department of Medicaid. It was moderated by Ms. Marlene Harris-Taylor, Reporter/Producer at Ideastream. 


According to the City Club notes, "Today in Ohio more than 400,000 adults and children receive behavioral health services—encompassing both mental health and substance abuse services—at a cost of approximately $900 million. Furthermore, Medicaid members needing treatment for mental health or substance abuse disorders represent 27 percent of Ohio Medicaid enrollment, but account for 47 percent of Medicaid spending. The Ohio Behavioral Health (BH) Redesign, part of Governor Kasich's plan to modernize Ohio's Medicaid program, is being implemented to rebuild community behavioral health system capacity across the state through the integration of physical and behavioral healthcare services to support patient care. The plan should be fully integrated by July 1, 2018."

The Ohio Behavioral Health Redesign website offers an even more concise description as it termed the undertaking as "a transformative initiative aimed at rebuilding Ohio's community behavioral health system capacity. Key proposals included adding new services for people with high intensity service and support needs and aligning the procedure codes used by Ohio's behavioral health providers to better integrate physical and behavioral healthcare."  

The discussion mostly concerned the reasons for the Redesign, the challenges encountered in putting it together, centering around procedural coding, and how it will be implemented. Both Ms. Plouck and Ms. Sears have worked quite hard to ensure that the transition in less than a week goes as smoothly as possible, but will be closely monitoring the proceedings to address the concerns of everyone involved, particularly those receiving the care.

The program was largely attended by healthcare professionals, and they told us they considered what they had heard to be very informative, and expressed respect for both Ms. Plouck and Ms. Sears.    

Since we do not work in the healthcare field and were not familiar with most of what was said, we believe it would be a mistake to try to quote any part of the discussion, so we invite our readers to view the program in its entirety here.

We can say, however, that based on what we heard, we consider the Ohio Behavioral Health Redesign to be a worthy endeavor, and we think Ohio will ultimately be a better place because of it.  

The main reason we attended was to talk to the healthcare professionals present about the behavioral healthcare options for both recently arrived documented immigrants who do not qualify for medicaid and those who are undocumented.  

We were told there were options for those who are here legally, and that they should check out Federally Qualified Health Centers or FQHC. As we expected, there is not much in the way of options for the undocumented unless they were experiencing a truly traumatic situation, which an emergency room could treat.    

We were heartened, though, by the show of empathy everyone we talked to seemed to have regarding the need for quality healthcare for all people in this country—whether they are documented or not. 


Michael Patterson

Community Liaison

Margaret W. Wong & Associates, LLC

Aimee Jannsohn