Will County Health Department Behavioral Health Division Director Dr. Joe Troiani attended an event in Washington, D.C. this past spring called the “Practice Leadership Conference on Practice, Politics, and Policy.” This annual event is organized by the American Psychological Association’s Practice Organization.
As current president of the Illinois Psychological Association, Dr. Troiani has been watching very carefully on possible changes in the Affordable Care Act. He says the Affordable Care Act “gave parity to behavioral health” and that coverage of pre-existing conditions and the expansion of Medicaid Coverage at the state level must continue. “Medicaid expansion funds the system,” Troiani explained.
During the conference in Washington, a banquet was held for the APA Congressional Honoree, Republican Congressman Tim Murphy of Pennsylvania, who is a Clinical Psychologist. “He led a multi-year investigation into the nation’s mental health system,” Troiani explained. “The outcome was the landmark crisis mental health reform legislation, resulting in the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act. This law fosters evidence-based treatment, addresses the shortage of psychiatric hospital beds, and helps patients get treatment when their mental illness becomes a crisis.”
Also addressed at the conference in Washington, to no one’s surprise, was the importance of the Affordable Care Act to Mental Health Care. The message, Dr. Troiani stated was “don’t repeal the ACA without replacing it with a law that ensures coverage for mental and behavioral health services, at parity.”
Dr. Troiani has been very firm that the ACA gave Behavioral Health treatment the respect that it deserves in standing beside all other forms of health coverage.
Dr. Troiani also says the initial effort by the Trump administration to reform health care seems to be crawling to a halt. “We are simply a step closer to what the end product will be,” Troiani said. “It’s very similar to sausage making. You may be happy with the result, but the process itself is very difficult to bear.
While we wait for that result, Dr. Troiani says the Will County Health Department’s efforts, thanks in part to support from the American Psychological Association, will continue. And the battle to continue Medicaid Expansion will be fought with maximum effort, with goal of keeping mental health treatment from the Will County Health Department alive and well.
“A few years ago,” Troiani recalled, “when the American Psychological Association first started to give grants for the accreditation of community based training programs nationwide, the Will County Health Department was the only agency in Illinois selected to receive the grant funding.
“The Illinois delegation, in meeting with Illinois legislators in Washington, D.C; advocated for the keeping of the ACA’s Medicaid Expansion as a legislative priority. The profession of Clinical Psychologists recognizes that the public health and non-profit community mental health system is depended on Medicaid reimbursement for their funding. With the phasing out of the state’s mental health programs, this has become even more critical. The loss or reduction of Medicaid Expansion would result in a catastrophic reduction of mental health services for those most in need, and the closing of clinical program. This could include community mental health centers.”