On July 31, Mick Pattinson took over as chief executive of AspenPointe, a nonprofit organization focusing on behavioral health care across the Pikes Peak region.
In his new job, Pattinson oversees a staff of about 500 health care professionals serving about 37,000 people across the Pikes Peak region. It's a job he's well acquainted with: Pattinson previously was chief executive of the Northern Arizona Regional Behavioral Health Authority - a mental health agency that provided funding for care across a wide swath of Arizona.
The Gazette recently sat down with Pattinson to discuss a range of issues, including his plans for the coming years. The bulk of his attention will soon be focused on addressing the Affordable Care Act and the massive influx of people who will soon get mental health care.
Question: You've only been on the job for about two months, but so far, have you noticed any issues that cry out for more attention?
Answer: Well, I'll tell you, what really has my attention right now is where things are headed. It's not so much what cries out for attention at the moment - what cries out for attention is how ready are we for what's going to happen in the three months from now, which is when Medicaid expansion kicks in the state of Colorado.
And we have a new group of people who are now eligible for Medicaid services in the world of behavioral health, and our ability to have the capacity to deal with that new demand for care. And then hand in hand with that, the new health insurance marketplace . and are we going to be prepared to be able to deal with the people who now have behavioral health coverage on their health insurance who may not have even had health insurance previously, who didn't have employers who gave it to them. And are we going to be ready for that group of folks as well? Because one of the tent services that's required under all those health insurance plans is behavioral health.
So that's what kind of has my attention is: Where are we going next, and how ready are we, and can we be ready by the first of the year?
Q: Will we be ready?
A: Believe me, we're working on planning for it right now. We're having conversations internally with the leadership in this organization, with our board of directors about how are we going to be ready to meet the new demand and do a good job for this region of the state.
Q: What kind of increase in demand are we actually going to see with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obama-care? How many more people are eligible for behavioral health services?
A: I don't have the actual number of the total people that are going to be enrolling in the insurance marketplace. There are going to be about 60,000 new members almost immediately statewide, and so I don't know the exact percentage of what will be in Colorado Springs. I'm pretty new, remember still.
However, I do know that there will be an increase for us. And so we're going to have to look at what staffing requirements are going to fit with that. .
The other piece is that it's going to take a while for those folks to get educated, and once they get educated about what's available for them, that's when - I don't think it will happen overnight - I think it will take a matter of months, as we see that new demand for services start to appear.
I also think I know some of what that population will look like. I think there is a group of people, who are adults, who do not have children, who were low income but not eligible to be Medicaid, who have not had insurance coverage historically. And I think it's a significant number of them that are going to have substance abuse issues.
And so I think that's some of the things that we're going to see in that population.
Q: Is that going to be an issue specific to the Pikes Peak region? Or more statewide?
A: I think that's going to be true nationally. I don't just think that's going to just be here. I think that's going to be in any state that's expanding Medicaid. . For the states that are participating in Medicaid expansion, it will be in all of those states, I think, that will be a similar pattern - not just Colorado.
Q: Now, you just came from the Northern Arizona Regional Behavioral Health Authority. Do you have any initiatives from back there that you would like to mimic here in Colorado Springs?
A: The experience that I bring that is a little bit different . is the managed care experience that also was coordinating very significantly with primary care and acute care.
Mental health and substance abuse treatment are health care issues.
We're a health care provider, and many people don't realize that they think that we're a social service agency, and we're not.
We're a health care provider, and we're part of the health care system.
And so one of the things that I did significantly in Arizona was partner very closely with health plans at the payer level and with primary care and acute care hospitals, for example, at the provider level and developed partnerships that were very significant in developing integrated care programs - where you provide behavioral health and primary care hand in hand because many of the people who are driving high health cost care are those people with serious mental illness. And the people with serious mental illness, if you look at the Medicaid, 30-33 percent of the cost in Medicaid is driven by the seriously mentally ill population, which is only 10-12 percent of that population.
And so the people who have serious chronic conditions, like COPD, diabetes, those kinds of issues, are very often people that we're also working with.
And so that's probably one the things that I really hope to see us move further down the path on here. And Colorado is moving rapidly in that direction.
AspenPointe already has a great deal of integrated care developed, but I want to see that path followed and evolve even further.
Contact Jakob Rodgers: 476-1654
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