County leaders worry legislation could change quality of behavioral health services offered

HARRISBURG, Pa. - Two bills introduced in the State House have some counties concerned about the impact on Medical Assistance recipients. Cumberland County Commissioners have already sent letters to their state lawmakers voicing opposition to the bills. House Bill 335 and Senate Bill 268 would change the way behavioral health is treated in the Medical Assistance program.

"We have a segregated system that pretends to treat an individual’s head different than their body," said State Rep. Seth Grove, co-author of HB335.

For the last 21 years, Medicaid patients have received behavioral health services from a county level, separate from the physical care they receive from their doctor. These bill would allow the state to take over the behavioral health services from the counties and integrate then with physical health, allowing doctors to treat patients both physically and mentally. This is something Jack Carroll, Cumberland-Perry Drug and Alcohol Commission Executive Director does not believe it would be in the best interests for Pennsylvanians. Carroll says Cumberland County has had success testing behavioral health.

"People who have experience with the provider network and developing, planning, administering services locally are in the best position to determine what will work," said Carroll. "What will be most effective."

However, Rep. Grove, believes moving towards an integrated health system would provide Medicaid recipients with better care. Pennsylvania is 1 of 11 states with a segregated system. Other states have already moved toward an integrated system.

"The opioid epidemic, has it gotten worse or gotten better," said Rep. Grove. "We've done a lot of work in the Capitol on opioids on money and policy. Are we making any dents? Are we still one of the highest addiction rates in the country? Yes. One of the reasons is the coordination of care under Medicaid."

The bills are still in the very early stages and still need to be voted out of their respective health committees before heading to the House and Senate Floors.

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