2018 Advocacy Preview:
Strengthening the Behavioral Health System

Date of Publication November 3, 2017

On October 25, the IMS Committee on Legislation approved their recommendations for the 2018 IMS Legislation Agenda. These recommendations will go before the IMS Board of Directors for review and approval on December 14, 2017. Over the next several weeks, IMS will be previewing these priorities as we prepare for the 2018 Legislation Session, which convenes on January 8, 2018.

As we recently reported, IMS member physicians from a variety of specialty areas are increasingly reporting issues with Iowa’s current behavioral health system. While efforts to improve this system are hardly new — numerous legislative and stakeholder groups have worked on segments of the system over the years with varied levels of success — the problems are becoming more pronounced. This is the impetus behind a recent white paper from the Iowa Chapter of the American Academy of Emergency Physicians (IA-ACEP), which outlines a series of proposed policy changes to help improve service delivery. The IMS Committee on Legislation approved a recommendation that IMS work in 2018 to improve Iowa’s behavioral health system, in line with the recommendations from IA-ACEP.

This week, IMS physician leaders joined representatives from IA-ACEP, the Iowa Psychiatric Society, the Iowa Hospital Association, law enforcement, patient advocacy organizations, and several additional stakeholders in an all-day meeting to discuss this issue. This large stakeholder group conducted a comprehensive assessment of Iowa’s current behavioral health system and began the work of identifying common areas of focus for improving the system. Among the needs identified throughout the course of the day, were several measures previously highlighted in the IA-ACEP white paper including:

  • Greater Discretion for Physicians to Initiate Involuntary Patient Holds for Psychiatric and Substance Use Disorder Evaluations
  • Additional Sub-Acute Community-Based Treatment Options
  • Efforts to Address Provider Shortages, Including Commercial Payment Parity to Enable Greater Telehealth Utilization
  • Assessment of Current Funding Mechanisms to Ensure Appropriate Allocation of Existing Resources at the Proper Level of Care

Given the complexity of funding and service delivery in the current system, no single solution will solve the problems facing Iowa’s behavioral health system. The stakeholders at this week’s meeting felt these measures would help move our state toward a stronger system that ultimately ensures every Iowan has access to the appropriate level of behavioral health services they need.

In the coming weeks, IMS will work with these stakeholder organizations to develop legislative language to help operationalize several of the recommendations put forward by IA-ACEP and those in attendance at this week’s meeting. For more information on this legislative priority, please contact Dennis Tibben, Director of Government Affairs in the IMS Center for Physician Advocacy.


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