Senator Roy Blunt was in St. Joseph Thursday morning to discuss mental and behavioral health efforts as part of a statewide pilot program.
Blunt spoke at the Family Guidance Center during a press conference as part of a tour of Missouri to talk about the Excellence in Mental Health Act which he co-sponsored with Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan. It was signed into law in 2014 and through it, pilot programs were established in eight states to expand access to community mental health services and more.
Missouri is one of the eight pilot states chosen and Blunt is visiting the agencies in the state to see how the Act is being implemented.
“It’s great to see Missouri in the lead in this, it’s great to see right here in this facility a 107 year tradition of understanding that behavioral health problems need to be dealt with like all other health problems,” Blunt said. “So we’ve got a couple of years here to really create a record that shows the other 42 states how you really do this and how it matters.”
Amy Spaeth is the Vice President of Finance at the Family Guidance Center in St. Joseph. Spaeth said the pilot program started in July and things are going well so far.
“We’ve added some new services which has been very exciting, we’ve been able to do some things that we haven’t been able to do before because it’s kind of a change in how we do business,” Spaeth said. “We’ve been able to add some services for kids with substance use disorders, we’ve been able to add some peer support specialists for adults with substance use disorders.”
Spaeth said, with the program, there’s also been some changes with reimbursement methodology which could allow them to increase their workforce.
“One of the things we struggle with, and as a nation we struggle with, is a shortage of mental health professionals,” Spaeth said. “So hopefully by being able to pay a more competitive wage we’ll be able to decrease that shortage.”
Blunt recently introduced legislation that would extend the time of the Excellence in Mental Health pilot program for states currently participating.
“I think what we’re going to see… is that actually you spend less money on health overall if you deal with behavioral health problems like all other health problems,” Blunt said. “We need to establish a culture here of no wrong door. Whatever healthcare door you open, leads you to health care solutions for all the problems you face, not just the physical health problems you face.”