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DHS Commissioner Lucinda Jesson and Alcohol and Drug Abuse Division Director Kevin Evenson were among several speakers at a hearing July 16 to promote insurance coverage for substance abuse and mental health treatment that is equal to coverage for other chronic health conditions.
Former Congressmen Jim Ramstad of Minnesota and Patrick Kennedy of Rhode Island called the hearing in St. Paul as one of series they are conducting to promote enforcement of the 2008 federal Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act.
Evenson mentioned his 30 years of sobriety in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction and discussed issues that need to be addressed as the state and nation move forward with parity and the Affordable Care Act. These include timely access to treatment and ensuring an adequate workforce to meet demands for service. Telemedicine could work for addiction counseling, he said, as it is working in primary care, psychiatry and psychology in rural areas.
Evenson said his goal is to move addiction services in Minnesota to a recovery-oriented system of care, “ a system where we move from episodes of care to a continuum of care system that will provide the right treatment at the right time based on clinical decision making. Integrating addiction with primary care and mental health will be crucial.”
In her testimony, Jesson highlighted work DHS has done with others to deliver mental health and substance abuse screening and treatment services in primary care settings, including health care homes, DIAMOND (Depression Improvement Across Minnesota, Offering a New Direction) depression screening and SBIRT (Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment) screening for substance abuse.
Despite Minnesota’s leadership, Jesson said, the state must make sure parity for mental health and addiction treatment continues as health care reforms are implemented.
Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman also testified, highlighting the recent award of a contract to create Minnesota’s new health insurance exchange website.
Pictured above, DHS Alcohol and Drug Abuse Division Director Kevin Evenson (left) and Commissioner Lucinda Jesson (right) participate in a hearing July 16 to promote enforcement of the 2008 federal Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act.