Beacon’s Regional Medical Director discusses the fragmented behavioral health system in Michigan – State of Reform

Scott Monteith, MD is the Regional Medical Director at Beacon Health Options out of Michigan. He is also currently on the board of directors for Michigan Health Information Network Shared Services (MiHIN).

Monteith will be speaking on the future of behavioral health at our upcoming 2022 Michigan State of Reform Health Policy Conference next week at the Lansing Center.

In this Q&A, Monteith discusses the behavioral health crisis in Michigan and throughout the country and ways Beacon is working to provide better access to behavioral health care.

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State of Reform: What is the biggest project you’re focusing on right now? What do you think is the most important issue in health care and health policy in Michigan?

Scott Monteith: “I would say that it has to do with how we can all continue to successfully promulgate efforts that further the Quadruple Aim. That is, continue to improve the quality of care, improve the quality of the experience people have receiving care, improve resource utilization, and keeping an eye on the provider workforce and making sure their experience in health care enables them to focus in on what’s really important, which is the care of people.”

SOR: What is the behavioral health situation like in Michigan? What are some of the problems that we see in Michigan relating to accessing quality behavioral health care in the state?

SM: “In many respects, I don’t think that Michigan is any different than the rest of the United States in that we have a health care system that is seriously fragmented. As a result, a lot of care is stressed by the fragmentation. The other side of the coin is to look for ways to successfully address the fragmentation.

In the interest of furthering the Quadruple Aim, one of the real strengths of Michigan is that we have an incredible clinical infrastructure and tremendous creativity, energy, and commitment as we’ve seen evidenced over the last two years where it’s been challenging to deliver care . Clinicians and systems are continuing to step up to the plate and work overtime to address the needs of the people in the state of Michigan, despite the many challenges that have been put in their way.”

SOR: Can you go into more detail about this fragmentation of the health care system?

SM: “So I’ll use a very specific example. Health Information Technology and how we manage information has far too many information silos, and not enough effective sharing of information. Clinicians create a lot of work-arounds that often take a tremendous amount of energy to make sure that the relevant information is shared so quality care can be provided. When it comes to behavioral health, we need to keep in mind the very important realities around honoring privacy and the rules and regulations that are appropriately in place to maintain privacy.”

SOR: What kind of work is Beacon Health Options doing right now in Michigan to try to fix some of these issues? How are you attempting to improve the behavioral health system?

SM: “Well, I think that Beacon’s focus is very much aligned with my personal focus, which is to keep our efforts aligned with the strengths that we already have in our system. That includes partnering with the different providers in the community to figure out how to bridge the fragmentation challenges in a way that preserves key principles around access to care and quality of care.”

SOR: What should the future look like for behavioral health care in the state? What would a reformed behavioral health system look like in Michigan?

SM: “A principle of health care is that all health care is local. It’s very important in my mind, when we develop policy, that policy ultimately starts with the people we’re serving, the patient. That patient should drive operations, which should drive funding and policy. It’s going to be critically important that we work with the people in the state of Michigan to support them in understanding their options for moving forward and to build out a system that protects access to care, quality of care, and care that’s going to support them as a whole person.

Beacon stands ready to assist the people of the state of Michigan in achieving their health care goals in whatever fashion the people in the state decide is most appropriate for Michiganders.”

This interview was edited for clarity and length.

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