Legislators, Stakeholders Discuss Access to Mental Health Care

HYANNIS – Legislators from the Cape and Islands met with officials from Child and Family Services Cape Cod on Friday to discuss the organization’s work in helping local families with mental health needs.

A legislative breakfast was held at Child and Family Services headquarters on Independence Drive in Hyannis, where lawmakers and stakeholders talked about a number of policy issues and how to better help people in need who may be falling through the cracks.

Much of the meeting focused on providing access to mental health services on Cape Cod. Child and Family Services staff members often travel to the homes of their clients to provide them with the attention they need.

“There are just so many people out there who would go without the mental health care that they need if it weren’t for places like Child and Family Services of Cape Cod,” said State Rep. Randy Hunt (R-Sandwich). “We are, as a delegation, very supportive of them and we came away with a few things that we need to work on and hopefully provide better services than even have been done in the past.”

“It gives us that reminder that we need to advocate to get more money into the line items for organizations such as this group here and other groups across the state,” State Rep. Tim Whelan (R-Brewster) said of the meeting. “It’s always nice to get a reminder of the deep need we have for mental health services, not only for our youngest, our children, but for the families…we all know that we’re facing a mental health crisis.”

Legislators and organization officials held a discussion on policy and which regulations positively and negatively impact Child and Family Services.

The group is supporting a bill on Beacon Hill that would limit insurance companies from a practice known as clawbacking.

Insurance companies are currently allowed an unlimited amount of time to retract a previously authorized payment for a service if they discover the patient was not actually covered for the treatment. The new bill would limit both commercial health insurers and MassHealth to a six-month period to recover payments for a completed behavioral health service.

“Years later, the insurance company can come back and take back money from the provider,” said Mandy Gilman, the Senior Director of Public Policy and Research for the Association for Behavioral Healthcare. “Providers already struggle to offer these services and when insurance companies can endlessly take back money it really puts them at a financial disadvantage.”

The proposal is currently in committee. According to Gilman, similar policies have already been adopted in 24 states.

Child and Family Services Cape Cod serves anywhere between 2,000 and 4,000 families annually. About 70 percent of their clients are children and adolescents.

With more than 50 staff members, the group is the largest non-profit community mental health provider on Cape Cod.