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High Plains Mental Health adding new service




Health homes, a service unique to Medicaid, is expected to begin at High Plains Mental Health in July.

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Health homes, a service unique to Medicaid, is expected to begin at High Plains Mental Health in July.

A health home is a comprehensive and intense system of care that coordinates all services and supports for people with complex chronic conditions.

"A health home is really just a collection of specific services for Medicaid members," said David Anderson, director of clinical programs at HPMH. "It's designed to improve care and reduce cost through really good coordination."

Anderson said there has been confusion if a "health home" is a nursing home or home health, but he said the name only refers to a system of care coordination by one designated mental-care provider.

Those with a diagnosis and who are on Medicaid automatically will be enrolled in a health home, but will have the option to opt out.

Kansas is the 13th state to implement health homes, which were created as part of the Affordable Care Act of 2010.

"States are receiving financial incentive to apply," Anderson said. "The federal government is paying 90 percent of the cost for the first eight fiscal quarters."

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 68 percent of people with a mental illness have one or more co-occurring physical conditions, such as asthma, diabetes or high blood pressure.

Anderson said a severely mentally ill person dies an average of 25 years before his or her peers.

Health homes aim to coordinate all health conditions, both physical and mental.

"This is especially useful if the person sees a lot of specialists," Anderson said. "There usually isn't very good coordination between those groups. This is designed so one person, a care manager, is responsible for coordinating all the different doctors."

The care manager will be responsible for knowing the time of the various appointments, making sure the patient has transportation to the appointment and occasionally going to the appointment.

Ken Loos, director of clinical programs at HPMH, said many times the patient lacks the assertiveness skills to know how to follow the physician's instructions or to even know the purpose of the appointment.

"They lack the assertiveness skills to say, 'I'm really struggling in these areas,' " he said.

Six core services will be involved in health homes, including comprehensive care management, care coordination, health promotion, comprehensive transitional care, individual and family support, and referral to social support services.

Anderson said the program primarily looks to serve groups who have high medical expenses and frequent unnecessary medical costs. This could be a result of a lack of follow-up.

The care manager will be responsible for following up by seeing if the patient attends all appointments and takes medication.

"We're really excited for this because we believe it will be extremely useful for our clients, and it gives us the opportunity to be more involved in their health care," Anderson said. "Ultimately, we hope to impact the fact that these people die sooner than their peers. We would like to extend, not only the length of their lives, but the quality.

"We're excited to work more closely with people providing physical health care."