We’re Finally Talking about Behavioral Health

By Frank Cornelia, MS, LPC, Associate Director of Policy and Government Affairs, Colorado Behavioral Healthcare Council

Lately, it seems like everywhere you turn in health care people are talking about the importance of behavioral health. “We need to connect the head to the body”, goes the oft repeated phrase. But it wasn’t so long ago that conversations about behavioral health occurred separately from the rest of health care. Behavioral health and physical health professionals rarely interacted and delivery systems were fragmented. Payment was siloed and oversight occurred in separate government departments. In fact, about the only constant in all this was the patient, who was required to navigate these complex systems without much assistance or care coordination.

Of course, we shouldn’t fool ourselves into thinking these problems have been solved. We still have a long way to go. But there is hope. Driven by the Affordable Care Act and the need to contain rising costs, the transformation of our health care system to integrate behavioral health is no longer a vague concept looming on the horizon – it is happening dramatically across the country and in our state right now.

Here at the Colorado Behavioral Healthcare Council (CBHC), we have been having this transformation conversation for nearly a decade now. (And it hasn’t been all talk – our members have been steadily building an extensive network of integrated care locations across the state.) In part due to the vision shared by the leaders at CBHC, Colorado is at the forefront of this historic transformation. With efforts such as the Comprehensive Primary Care Initiative, the State Innovation Model award, Colorado Medicaid’s next phase of the Accountable Care Collaborative, and potentially more to come, the health care delivery landscape in Colorado is poised to undergo a sea change that we haven’t seen in nearly a half-century.

We have a relatively small team here at CBHC. As you can imagine we have to be selective about the opportunities we take on. But when we were invited join the other Operating Partners at Healthy Transitions Colorado (HTC) it didn’t take us long to realize that we needed be a part of the conversation. With our increased involvement, we are eager to share the work of our members, the value of addressing behavioral health, and the role that specific behavioral health issues play in care coordination, successful care transitions, and hospital readmissions. On behalf of CBHC and our member organizations, we are excited to be an active part of this effort and we look forward to contributing to the continued success of Healthy Transitions Colorado.