Calling All Policy Wonks: Conferences On Long Term, Behavioral Health Care

Sep 23, 2015

I wish I could be in two places at once. This Friday, two health policy-related conferences take place simultaneously in Warwick. Here's a bit more about each, and why the issues they're covering matter to Rhode Islanders.

Two conferences will take a deeper look at caring for seniors, and integrating primary and behavioral health care, like this medical practice in Providence does.
Credit Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

1. The 2015 Long-term Care Policy Conference on “Changes, Challenges, and Opportunities," hosted by Leading Age RI, takes place Friday, Sept. 25 from 8 am - 1 pm at the Airport Radisson in Warwick. The organizers say,  "There are numerous initiatives at the federal and state levels that will change how long-term care services are provided and paid for. Providers must recognize the challenges and opportunities that exist to not only survive but to thrive." 

Translation: Medicare and Medicaid are going to be paying more often for quality, less often for quantity, when it comes to health care. That includes long-term care, which can be one of the most expensive chunks of the health care budget. And it's going to get more expensive, given the country's demographics, if we don't make some changes. So right now, the trend is to move people out of nursing homes, or prevent them from going as long as possible, so that they can be cared for in the community. It's cheaper, and, proponents say, better. That means nursing homes are going to lose business. So they'll need some new strategies to survive. Also, everyone's trying to coordinate seniors' care better - to help them make the transition from hospital to home, or combine their Medicaid and Medicare benefits so it's easier to navigate. This conference will likely get into a bit of all of this. Speakers include folks from Rhode Island health agencies, insurers, nonprofits like Justice in Aging, and health programs like PACE (Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly).

2. Also on Friday, the conference "Advancing Effective Integration of Behavioral Health and Primary Care: Focusing on the Whole Patient," hosted by the Rhode Island Health Center Association and Neighborhood Health Plan of Rhode Island, takes place at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Warwick from 8 am - 4 pm. 

This conference will be looking at what it takes to integrate these two facets of health care. And that's important because it's happening already in Rhode Island. Many people believe medical practices need to go beyond just referring primary care patients to a counselor or psychiatrist. They believe those specialties should practice together, manage patients together. Ultimately, it's hoped this will make people healthier, give people better access to all of the care they need, and cost less - the golden summit in health care circles.

Speakers include folks from the Health Resources Services Administration, the Eugene S. Farley, Jr. Health Policy center, UMass Medical School, SAMHSA, and Rhode Island health agencies.