The North Dakota Legislature is entering what could be considered the final stretch of the Interim session, the two years between the conventional 80 day legislative sessions. The interim is a time for legislators to take up an issue facing North Dakota residents, study the causes, and find potential solutions. Though every committee is vitally important, Freedom Resource Center has closely followed the work of the Human Services Committee.
The Human Services Committee has been assigned three major studies including: Behavioral Health, Home and Community Based Services, and Traumatic Brain Injury. All three of these studies greatly impact people with disabilities living within the state.
Today we will update one of those studies and over the next couple of weeks update you on the others.
Services for behavioral health have taken the spotlight across the country as of late and have many people wondering why we treat this type of health care different from any other type of care. At Freedom, we’ve heard the outcry from people in desperate need of behavioral health care professionals. Unfortunately, they are placed on a wait list for services because of a lack of work force, payment demands, and few options. In some cases, people aren’t able to access services unless they are about to inflict harm on others or to themselves.
The Legislature hired an independent consultant to review the state’s status and provide suggestions for improvement.
Early suggestions are:
- Reevaluate board requirements for health care professionals. According to the consultant, ND has higher and, at times unnecessary, requirements than other states which has deterred professional development in behavioral health providers.
- Utilize telehealth technology to assist in rural settings. North Dakota is very rural yet through advanced technology we can have people in need of care visit face to face with a professional outside of their community.
- Review the state’s essential health benefits plan as required under the Affordable Care Act. The Legislature chose an essential health benefit plan with fewer required benefits than most other states. In what is perhaps an unintended consequence, this created another barrier for behavioral health care access in the state. The consultant stated, “While other states used the essential health benefit plan to increase access to behavioral health, North Dakota did not.” The legislature may need to take a look at adding benefits to the plan and require third party payers to cover behavioral health care access.
Next week: Home and Community Based Services.