Lawmakers working to ease mental health crisis in the state
BATON ROUGE- On Tuesday, representatives from nine different health agencies spoke to lawmakers about failures by the state to provide mental health services—many pointing fingers at insurance and Medicaid reimbursements to providers.
"Where are the providers who take Medicaid and actually have appointments available?" Laura Calhoun asked during the House Committee on Health and Welfare's subcommittee on Mental Health.
"If you got a low reimbursement rate for one of your largest populations, almost two million people, it creates these disparities, because you're not going to get providers to come to this state where they can't afford to pay their staff," State Rep. Michael Echols (R)- Morehouse and Ouachita said.
"Over 80% of nurse practitioners in the state take Medicaid and Medicare so we need to look at reimbursements, we need to make sure we're reimbursing appropriately for those services, it won't only affect us, it'll affect psychiatrists, clinical counselors, and other disciplines too," Melissa Nunn, the President-elect for Louisiana Association of Nurse Practitioners, said.
Attendees spoke at length about collaborative care systems, which would connect patient's primary care doctors with psychiatrists. They also say funding for more training is needed.
"Need to look at education and funding more advanced practiced nursing education so we can produce more psychiatric mental health practitioners and support the faculty that trains them," Nunn said.
In the end, everyone at the meeting agreed something needs to be done.
"I think once we have these data sets in place, we will be able to provide more legislation and improve outcomes for our citizens," Echols said.
The next meeting will be on Oct. 17. Representatives plan on hearing from insurance providers, Medicaid, and hospitals.