Maryland Needs to Address Behavioral Health Billing Issues and Build a Stable Workforce

A recent story in The Sun highlighted the financial and manpower strain many Maryland mental health and addiction treatment nonprofits are under (“mental health and addiction providers Maryland drug addictions face financial and personnel pressures: ‘like a game of whack-a-mole,'” April 14).

We know that Baltimore City residents are also feeling the strain of two years of the COVID pandemic, increasing violence in our communities, job loss, and economic uncertainty. Baltimore City’s 24/7 behavioral health hotline saw calls for help double at the start of the COVID pandemic, and they haven’t diminished. With such a growing need for help, we need to do everything we can to ensure people have easy access to behavioral health care.

Ongoing billing issues with Optum Maryland, the company contracted by the Maryland Department of Health to administer Medicaid payments, are causing some behavioral health providers to limit their services, and some are leaving the program altogether. Many programs struggle to recruit and retain therapists, counselors and peer support staff.

Combined, these issues are alarming. Providers simply cannot meet the growing needs, and many of our friends, neighbors and relatives are going without care.

At a time of growing demand for mental health and addictions services, health officials and state policymakers must do all they can to address billing issues and build a stable behavioral health workforce to ensure access. fair and reliable treatment and support. services in the community.

—Adrienne Breidenstine

The author is vice president of policy and communications for Behavioral Health System Baltimore.

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