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2012 Mid-Atlantic Behavioral Health Conference Highlight: Mady Chalk on a New Era for Behavioral Health

Trends in Behavioral Healthcare: Join the Conversation

The Danya Institute is pleased to present this regular series of orignal articles on trends in the field of behavioral healthcare.  Our latest article is by special guest author Douglas Canter.



Dr. Mady Chalk, a recognized expert in the field of substance abuse policy and health care reform, spoke to a group of health care professionals on May 9, the first of a three-day conference in Annapolis, Maryland. Chalk’s presentation addressed health care reform, including strategic tips for mental health and substance abuse service providers. “[These] specialty programs should be thinking about what role they can play in home and community-based health services,” she offered. “Begin to explore your community for necessary partners and do it now,” she implored.

The May 9-11 mid-Atlantic behavioral health conference was presented by The Maryland Addictions Council partnering with the Central East Addiction Technology Transfer Center Network. The Danya Institute was one of the many co-sponsors. The Supreme Court largely affirmed the Affordable Care Act in June 2012. Chalk, speaking in May, highlighted several health care reforms that had already occurred and would continue under the Affordability of Care Act. Chalk’s talk discussed trends from current Medicare exclusions to anticipated Medicaid revisions.

Key elements of health care reform, which will drive some of these changes, include making access to health care more accessible and affordable, increasing the transparency of quality of care indicators, and linking primary care with other types of health service providers. Chalk stressed the importance of having partners, defining what you do best, and looking for ways to add value. She predicted that there will be a major focus on primary care, coordination of primary and specialty care, home and community-based services, health outcomes, and preventing disease and promoting wellness. “Providing treatment for substance abuse disorders is a major, major cost reducer,” Chalk offered to the audience, emphasizing the potential business opportunities.

“[Medicaid, which] already plays a major role for mental health disorders, will begin to play a much bigger role for substance abuse disorders.” She added that mental health and substance abuse, including behavioral health, are included in the definition of “essential benefits” that must be included in Medicaid and certain certified private insurance plans by 2014 under the Affordable Care Act.

Later, speaking about Medicare, she said, “I should see your ears perk up now.” Medicare does not cover existing mental and substance abuse conditions when hospitals previously have treated other health problems, she explained. She provided an example of a heart patient with undiagnosed alcohol dependence who receives heart surgery and then subsequently is treated in the emergency room for drinking. “The hospital will not get paid,” she said, referring to that second visit. “It happens today under Medicare. It will continue under the new rules, and hospitals are beginning to take notice,” she said emphatically. “Having a formalized relationship with a primary care provider that allows you to treat…for two or more chronic illnesses might be something you should be looking at now,” she suggested.

Chalk is the Director of the Center for Policy Analysis and Research at the Treatment Research Institute, a non-profit research and policy organization group that focuses on substance abuse treatment and policy.  You can hear Dr. Chalk’s presentation on YouTube in its entirety at:


Many other highlights from the conference are here:


Douglas Canter is a Washington, DC energy attorney and local freelance writer.