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New initiative will help prepare treatment agencies for healthcare changes

November 5, 2009
by Gary A. Enos, Editor
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NIATx seeks programs that already are thinking ahead

Some addiction and mental health agencies are preparing for the anticipated dramatic changes in healthcare by getting out ahead of change, choosing not to wait until all the details of policy initiatives come clear. These are the kinds of agencies NIATx (originally established as the Network for the Improvement of Addiction Treatment) is targeting for its latest project, the Accelerating Reform Initiative.

NIATx deputy director Todd Molfenter explains that his organization will favor in its selection process for the initiative those behavioral health agencies that already have begun to make progress in preparing for the system changes that parity, healthcare reform, and funding shifts will generate. In truth, agencies shouldn’t simply wait for adopted health reform legislation or parity regulations before they act, because market forces already are requiring providers to alter many of their operating assumptions.

“We know that changes in budgets and reimbursement are already creating reform-like policy changes in the field,” Molfenter says.

Up to 12 agencies will be selected in an RFP review process conducted by NIATx; the deadline for submitting proposals is Nov. 24, and more information about the process is available at www.niatx.net. Selected organizations (they must be provider-based, although a government agency could partner with a provider to submit a bid) will be asked to prioritize working on one of seven “conditions for reform” that NIATx has identified as the domains where the field’s most progressive trends are occurring.

The seven areas are patient identification; accountability for patient care and outcomes; treatment practices; patient and family role; workforce; technology; and infrastructure (business system). As an example of where the treatment field is in one of these domains and where it needs to be, NIATx sees the present workforce as having too few physicians and nurses and also needing to move from about 50 percent licensed professionals to about 70 percent.

Participants in Accelerating Reform will receive high-level coaching, peer networking, and travel stipends in order to support their project efforts. Each will conduct a reform project focusing on either service integration, technology, or financial management.

NIATx, a process improvement network out of the University of Wisconsin, has assisted scores of treatment providers in adopting relatively low-cost changes to everyday procedures that can enhance patients’ access to and retention in treatment and improve organizations’ bottom line.

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