Rep. Wendi Thomas Proposes Legislation for Collaborative Access to Mental Health Care

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Rep. Wendi Thomas' proposal moves mental health approaches to a more convenient model.

Pa.’s may be introducing yet another acronym in its mental health glossary. The Collaborative Care Model (CoCM) of patient access has been proposed to meet the state’s mental health care needs.

Bucks County Rep. Wendi Thomas proposed the legislation.

Its integrated approach is expected to make major inroads to mental health support, especially in the state’s rural areas.

Rep. Thomas’ House Bill 2686 creates a grant program to help smaller and start-up practices cover initial costs. It then uses a team approach to connect patients with services and treatment.

Action plans are led by primary care physicians but not enacted by them alone; responsibility is shared with a consulting psychiatrist and a behavioral health care manager. This professional trio then tracks patient progress using a care plan based on evidence and data.

The arrangement has already been vetted elsewhere.

“The World Health Organization reported that there are key advantages to delivering mental health care through primary care,” said Martin Raniowski of the Pennsylvania Medical Society. “First and foremost is accessibility; second is affordability. And it is acceptable to people with mental health problems because they are already there with the primary care practice that they trust.”

Rep. Thomas extolled the proposals virtues, saying, “As we are seeing all across the country, people — particularly young people — who need psychiatric care have difficulties getting [it], due to access limitations and cost. We could reach many more people in crisis if that care could be accessed through their primary care physicians.”

The full press release on the CoCM model is online.

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