Behavioral Health Services

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Senior Living Providers See Opportunity to Expand Behavioral Health Services

According to a recent article in Senior Housing News, one such example is Juniper Village at the Spearly Center, a 135-bed skilled nursing facility run by Juniper Communities in Denver. The SNF serves residents with behavioral and mental health needs, and about half of the facility’s residents are older adults, according to Susan Pappas, the facility’s administrator.

“We’re almost like two facilties,” Pappas told SHN. “We have all the clinical complexity of a skilled nursing facility while, simultaneously, all of the residents that we serve also have behavioral or mental health conditions.”

The program’s behavioral health services are funded through the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing (HCPF). Outside of the Centennial State, providers and their residents may also be able to rely on assistance from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).

In particular, the federal agency last year added behavioral health as a billable code to its Chronic Care Management (CCM) program. The program is meant to improve health outcomes and drive down the cost of care for people living with multiple chronic conditions, including behavioral health conditions.

CMS also has the Psychiatric Collaborative Care Model (CoCM), which enhances primary care in two ways: care management support for people receiving behavioral health treatment and adding to the primary care team regular psychiatric interspecialty consultation.

The new payment codes could help enable better care management, which has a potential impact on community-based services, according to Juniper founder and CEO Lynne Katzmann. And, overall, they could help boost quality of life and length of stay for senior living residents, especially those who already live with non-acute mental health conditions, such as chronic depression.

Juniper is one of three senior living providers to launch The Perennial Consortium, which will offer Medicare Advantage plans tailored to the senior living population. Katzmann is heartened by the new payment options for behavioral health and sees it as a sign of things to come.

“It’s an acknowledgement that there’s a relationship between behavioral health and the incidence and exacerbation of chronic illness,” Katzmann told SHN. “And because of that, the government, on a fee-for-service basis and by logical extension Medicare Advantage, is now finding ways to pay for those services because the outcomes justify the payment.”

Senior living providers would do well to explore these and other benefits in looking for new ways to serve residents living with mental or behavioral conditions. There is also likely a significant financial upside for senior living providers who embrace care coordination and Medicare Advantage (MA).

Already, Juniper is exploring how it can use these payment codes to offer some of these services to more of its residents.

“Behavioral issues, ones that aren’t thought to be acute, are important,” Katzmann said. “This is a new understanding of an existing issue and we’re provided some new tools to work with it.”

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