Blues plan integrates medical, mental health management

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Vermont has created a new company with the state's largest private psychiatric hospital to integrate healthcare with mental health and substance abuse services.

Along with psychiatric hospital Brattleboro Retreat, Blue Cross founded the Vermont Collaborative Care to ensure members with mental health and substance abuse issues can obtain care just like patients with physical care needs can, the insurer announced today.

"We are launching a combined approach," Blue Cross Chief Medical Officer Robert Wheeler said, VT Digger reported. "Our analytics will take all of the claims from mental health, substance abuse, physical health, pharmacy and combine them in a way that allows us to look at the whole person and identify patterns that are useful in helping to guide care."

The new venture will change, for example, Blue Cross's requirement that members call two different numbers to obtain authorizations for physical and mental healthcare, Blue Cross CEO Don George said at a press conference, adding that "it's integrated; one approach."

What's more, Vermont Collaborative Care will help Blue Cross work with its doctors to identify mental health conditions, like depression, that often accompany physical illnesses, according to the Associated Press. "We can find people who have co-existing mental health and physical health conditions and look at that more systematically to see are we approaching this from both sides at the same time. And are the providers approaching this from both sides at the same time," Wheeler said.

Vermont Collaborative Care will provide services to Blue Cross members on July 1 and will then expand to other insurers after a few months' operation, according to the announcement.

To learn more:
- here's the Blue Cross announcement
- read the VT Digger article
- see the Associated Press article