State Roundup: Mental Health Care Changes In Conn.

A selection of health policy stories from Connecticut, the District of Columbia, California, Oregon, Arkansas, Florida and Kansas.

Kaiser Health News: As 'Bodega Clinicas' Fill Void, Officials Are Torn On Embracing Them
The so-called bodega clinicas that line the streets of Los Angeles' immigrant neighborhoods blend into a dense forest of commerce. Wedged between money order kiosks and pawn shops, these storefront doctors' offices treat ailments for cash: a doctor's visit is $20 to $40, a podiatry exam is $120 and at one bustling clinica, a colonoscopy is advertised on an erasable white board for $700 (Varney, 1/12). 

CT Mirror: State Reversing Mental Health Cuts -- For This Year, At Least
State officials have reversed plans to cut more than $7 million in funding from mental health and addiction programs this fiscal year. The cuts, made late last year in response to a budget shortfall, had led the nonprofit mental health and addiction service providers that contract with the state to make plans that included layoffs and reduced services. But Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services Commissioner Patricia Rehmer advised them this week to delay drastic budget-cutting measures. Last month's shooting of 20 children and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School has led state officials to reevaluate Connecticut's mental health system. In light of that, "We really can't afford to hit the service system" right now, Rehmer said. The department is expected to find offsetting cuts elsewhere in its budget, although the commissioner said she's not certain it will be possible to absorb it all (Becker, 1/11).

The Washington Post: Department Of Behavioral Health Will Combine Mental Health, Substance Abuse Functions
A new Department of Behavioral Health will become one of the District government's largest agencies after Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) announced Friday that he was combining the city's mental health and substance abuse functions for the first time. The new department, to begin operations Oct. 1, will combine the Department of Mental Health, with its $190 million budget and 1,200 employees, with the Department of Health's Addiction Prevention and Recovery Administration, which has a $32 million budget and about 90 employees. Those agencies currently manage services for about 35,000 District residents (DeBonis, 1/11).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Oregon, California Tell Insurance Companies To Stop Denying Transgender Health Care
Regulators in Oregon and California have quietly directed some health insurance companies to stop denying coverage for transgender patients because of their gender identity. The states aren't requiring coverage of specific medical treatments (1/11).

Modern Healthcare: Wal-Mart Boosts Ark. Medical Home Effort
The state of Arkansas's health system transformation was given a significant financial boost from the state's largest company, Wal-Mart Stores, which committed to providing $670,000 to help underwrite the work of the Arkansas Health Care Payment Improvement Initiative. But Arkansas Surgeon General Dr. Joe Thompson said the significance of the contribution stems from Wal-Mart's standing as the state's largest self-insured employer. The initiative, Thompson said, is a multipayer effort and the intent is to make it all-payer -- and this includes self-insured employers such as Wal-Mart. Thompson explained how Arkansas is part of the CMS' Comprehensive Primary Care Initiative, which has 500 practices across the nation serving as patient-centered medical homes. With those participating practices, the intent is to have 60 percent of their patients covered by a payer that is contributing a monthly per member care-management fee. That fee is used to cover expenses, such as staff salaries (Robeznieks, 1/11).

The Miami Herald: Health Care Accelerator Now Accepting Applications
Project Lift Miami, a new accelerator designed to help develop young health care-technology companies and prepare them for investment opportunities, is now accepting applications for its first class, which will begin in May. Its website is live beginning Monday at www.lift1428.com/projectlift. The accelerator is a partnership between Lift1428, an innovation design, strategy and communications firm, the University of Miami Life Science & Technology Park and its developer, Wexford Science + Technology, and the UM Miller School of Medicine, said Robert Chavez, executive director of Project Lift Miami. It will offer up to 15 selected entrepreneurial teams a structured 100-day program of training by a large network of local and national experts as well as mentoring and strategic support that will continue well beyond the program (Dahlberg, 1/13).

Kansas Health Institute: State Supreme Court Decides Three Health-Related Cases
The Kansas Supreme Court today released decisions in three health-related cases. One involved a dispute over the state's calculation of Medicaid reimbursements for a small group of northeast Kansas nursing facilities specializing in care for the mentally ill. The other two decisions upheld lower court findings in medical malpractice cases and hinged on the correctness of the instructions given to the district court juries, each of which rejected the malpractice claims. In the Medicaid reimbursement case, Village Villa v. Kansas Health Policy Authority, the court found for the agency, which since the case was brought has been dissolved and replaced by the Health Care Finance Division at the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (1/11).

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