Texas House of Representatives Public Health Committee They will be holding a public hearing focused on rural health this week, and have been invited to comment on ways to strengthen the Texas health care workforce and address rural health care challenges.
As Executive Director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) in Texas, I’d like to touch on the importance of access to mental health care for rural Texans and highlight a resource that really addresses this challenge: managed medical care.
At the end of 2020, a report by NAMI found that 1 in 5 adults experience some symptoms of mental illness each year. according to mental health texasMore than 3.3 million adults in Texas suffer from mental illness. The conversation about mental health and conduct disorders has shifted as our world changes and we emerge from a global pandemic. In 2022, addressing mental health, especially in our youth, has never been more important.
However, according to Rural Health Information CenterAlthough nearly 3 million people live in rural Texas, there is not a single hospital in 28% of the state’s counties. When it comes to treating mental health conditions, access to care is critical. Medicaid Managed Care addresses the challenges that rural Texas residents face when it comes to accessing care by increasing the number of routine physician visits, coordinating care plans, and incorporating new strategies such as telehealth.
Serious mental health conditions can be managed, but high-quality routine care plays an important role in achieving successful outcomes. When it comes to diagnosis, like many medical conditions, the earlier the better. Children who receive managed care from Medicaid are four times more likely to have a steady source of care than their uninsured counterparts. If children are diagnosed early, plans of care can be developed and evaluated before their disease or condition worsens.
Although mental illness can be treated, it is essential, especially in the most serious cases, that you continue to receive care. Rural health clinics, supported by Medicaid for Managed Care, are working to bridge the gap in care felt by rural Texas residents. These clinics are available for routine or emergency mental health services and are necessary to keep patients on their care plan. Medicaid managed care and routine treatment of mental health conditions can prevent costly psychiatric hospitalization, emergency room visits, or in some cases criminal interventions.
Mental illnesses are complex conditions and often require a team of experts to treat. Medicaid’s coordinated care approach to managed care ensures communication within the care team to provide primary care. This approach also relieves the patient’s stress and anxiety, which can worsen their condition and exacerbate symptoms. For those who have treatment plans that include medication, it is essential that the individual adhere to this plan of care.
Medicaid managed care adapts and advances to meet society’s changing approach to medicine. In an increasingly virtual world, Medicaid managed care is expanding access to telehealth, allowing patients to contact their providers by phone or video call to receive routine care. Especially in cases where a patient may need to see a specialist, telehealth allows patients to receive needed care without traveling for hours to the nearest provider.
During my years working in the mental health sector here in Texas, I’ve seen all of the state’s, and I know Medicaid managed care is especially important to rural Americans struggling with mental health struggles. As the Texas House of Public Health meets Wednesday to assess continuing challenges in the rural health care system, NAMI Texas is urging lawmakers to strengthen Medicaid managed care to protect at-risk populations in our state — especially those with mental illness.
Greg Hansch is the executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness in Texas. NAMI Texas is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that aims to help improve the lives of people with mental illness through education, support, and advocacy.