The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services may now allow for states to pursue Medicaid reimbursements for short-term inpatient treatment in mental health facilities despite a decades-old exclusion, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar announced Nov. 13 at a meeting of the National Association of Medicaid Directors in Washington, D.C.

The silhouette of a head pointing left is made up of black and blue hands. Above the head reads "spotlight on," and in the head reads "teen mental health."
Shining the Light: Spotlight on Teen Mental Health logo | Detroit Jewish News

“Today, CMS will be sending a letter to state Medicaid directors laying out how to apply for waivers for flexibility … to treat serious mental illness. … [W]e will strongly emphasize that inpatient treatment is just one part of what needs to be a complete continuum of care, and participating states will be expected to take action to improve community-based mental health care,” he said. “There are effective methods for treating the seriously mentally ill in the outpatient setting, which have a strong track record of success and which this administration supports. … Both tools are necessary, and both are too hard to access today.”

Azar said that those suffering from mental health challenges have the “worst of both worlds: limited access to inpatient treatment and limited access to other options. Given the history, it is the responsibility of state and federal governments together, alongside communities and families, to right this wrong.”

More treatment options are needed, and that includes more inpatient and residential options that can help stabilize Americans with serious mental illness, he said. His full remarks are available here.

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