Text Size:   A+ A- A   •   Text Only
Site Image

DHS news release

May 6, 2004

Contact:Jim Sellers (503) 945-5738
Program contact: David Pollack, M.D. (503) 945-9044

Initiative launched to improve psychiatric patient care, control costs

An initiative to improve care for psychiatric patients, maintain patients' access to all appropriate medications and decrease overall Medicaid costs is being launched by the Oregon Department of Human Services (DHS).

The primary elements of the plan, called the Partnership for Psychiatric Medication Access, are to evaluate providers' practices in prescribing mental health drugs to ensure consistent, scientifically based treatment and to reduce inefficient use of Medicaid-paid drugs.

One element, known as the "behavioral pharmacy management system," is being implemented on contract with Comprehensive NeuroScience Inc. (CNS) of White Plains, N.Y., which says a similar project in Missouri already is showing promising results. Eli Lilly and Company is financing the Oregon project.

"This project holds great promise for the quality of care provided to Oregonians," said David Pollack, M.D., medical director for the DHS Office of Mental Health and Addictions Services. "With psychiatric treatment expenses rising during a time of limited state budgets, it is essential that we get a handle on these costs without sacrificing quality of care for our most vulnerable clients with serious psychiatric illnesses."

Pollack said psychiatric drugs, whose costs have been rising rapidly, constitute about 31 percent of DHS' budget for Oregon Health Plan prescription drugs.

Pollack said he expects CNS' review of prescribing practices will identify a small number of providers who fall outside of guidelines, and that they will receive educational materials to support best practices and be encouraged to improve their practices. CNS will also monitor providers to see how they respond, he said.

"We developed a demonstration project to improve prescribing practices four years ago after being approached about surprising increases in use and cost of psychiatric medications," said Richard Surles, CNS senior vice president. "We will compare current prescribing practices in Oregon with best practices and make suggestions to improve quality and reduce unnecessary costs."

Apart from the contract with CNS, the Oregon project also will develop practice guidelines for selected psychiatric medications, especially for major illnesses such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and severe depression. And it will focus on opportunities to save money by splitting pills or consolidating multiple doses into single daily doses when medically appropriate and agreeable to patients and their doctors, Pollack said.

"DHS is undertaking these initiatives to promote the best patient care within current cost constraints," Pollack said.