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Adequate Behavioral Health Services Is a Matter of Definition

Adequate Behavioral Health Services Is a Matter of DefinitionBehavioral health management companies often find themselves working side-by-side with individual facilities or healthcare groups to ensure that adequate behavioral health services are being offered in a given area. That is good. On the other hand, there is no concrete definition of ‘adequate’ in this regard. How organizations define adequate often dictates the level and quality of care they provide.

Our industry has just begun a discussion on the possibility of coming up with some type of standard. The standard would define adequate care based on specific criteria that might include population density, local economics, patient demographics, and more. In theory, coming up with a standard is doable. But in practice, it has proven to be somewhat difficult.

Local, Regional, or Network-Wide

One of the first problems you run into in any attempt to define adequacy is the geographic problem. Does the behavioral health consulting company work with clients to provide adequacy just at the local level? Does service adequacy encompass a larger geographical region? Is an organization looking to address service adequacy network-wide?

Providing adequate levels of behavioral health services absolutely starts at the local level. You cannot have a robust network-wide system if services in some local areas are lacking. But some would argue that an organization is not truly offering adequate services if those services are not available across its entire network.

This dictates an incremental approach to developing and maintaining adequate services. You start at the local level and build from there. Local communities being served adequately create regions with adequate services. Step-by-step, you build an organization until its entire network of service providers is up to speed.

The Economic Considerations

Another big challenge is represented by the economic considerations in a given area. Where the economy isn’t so great, people still need access to mental health services. There might even be a higher demand because of the economics. Unfortunately, our system is one that tends to favor those with sufficient economic means at the expense of those without.

To truly provide adequate mental health services in a given area, any and all economic barriers need to be broken down. One way or the other, patients in need of mental or behavioral health need to have access to it at a cost they can actually afford. Where people need services that they cannot pay for, there needs to be a way to provide such services anyway.

A Standard Becomes a Benchmark

Behavioral health management companies love standards. Why? Because a standard acts as a benchmark. It gives an organization a starting point along with a goal to strive for. Without any such benchmarks, it can be difficult to know where to start working on improvements. And without a goal to reach, there is little motivation to make changes.

There are many areas around the country where behavioral and mental health services are more than adequate. There are other places where such services are virtually nonexistent. In between the two extremes are areas where some services are offered, but not everyone who needs such services can access them.

As a behavioral health consulting firm, we work with clients to ensure the services they offer are more than adequate. Yet we recognize the lack of a standard definition of adequacy. Perhaps those calling for the development of a standard definition are on to something. With a standard definition comes a benchmark. And with a benchmark, the industry can establish goals that will help facilities and healthcare groups develop and provide adequate services across their entire networks. That is the way it should be.

Let’s Get to Work, Together

Contact us to learn more about how Horizon Health can help you start a behavioral health program or take an existing program to new heights.