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Medicaid Mental Services Increase with More Funding

Increased funding and expansion of services leads to increased utilization

MONDAY, June 30 (HealthDay News) -- Increased funding of Medicaid mental health services and expansion of Medicaid's Early Periodic Screening, Diagnosis, and Treatment (EPSDT) program in California resulted in increased delivery of mental health services, especially in rural areas and communities historically receiving low levels of funding, according to study findings published in the June issue of Medical Care.

Lonnie R. Snowden, Ph.D., of the School of Social Welfare and Center for Mental Health Services Research at the University of California-Berkeley, and colleagues observed utilization of mental health services from 53 California county mental health plans over 36 quarters and looked for trends in utilization. The investigators compared changes in utilization that occurred after expansion of EPSDT and increased mental health funding in rural versus urban counties, and counties based on prior funding of mental health services.

While overall utilization increased throughout California, utilization increased by 13 percent in rural versus urban counties and 21 percent in counties previously receiving low levels of funding compared to counties with higher levels of pre-implementation funding, the report indicates.

"California's experience shows what a comprehensive response can and cannot achieve. It is possible to realize substantial penetration rate increases by carving out mental health from other EPSDT benefits and by broadening medical necessity criteria to encompass more mental health-related conditions, by sanctioning more groups of mental health licensed professionals as Medicaid mental health providers, and by protecting local plans from cost increases," the authors conclude.

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