New Initiative Assists Behavioral Health Providers Prepare For Affordable Care Act

HOUSTON, TX (June 11, 2013)—The abundance of media attention on the impending rollout of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has been focused on the impact on consumers and the massive changes and choices in health care coverage they are facing. What has been of far less interest is the impact the law will have on practitioners providing that care—and it is safe to say that changes in that realm are equally as challenging and critical to maintaining a strong, accessible health care system. 
By the 2014 deadline, health care providers will be required to adopt or create certified electronic health records, establish integrated health care partnerships, and institute more stringent outcome-based evaluations. Those providers who do not or cannot comply will not be able to access federal funds—a major if not the major funding source for many safety-net providers. And even though the state decided not to participate in Medicaid expansion, Texas health providers will not be excused from meeting these new mandates.
Aware of the enormous impact these new mandates would have on health care providers, the federal government began offering technical and monetary support to health providers several years ago.  However, because of the requirements to qualify for this support, the vast majority of mental health and substance abuse providers were not eligible to participate, leaving the “safety-net” community-based providers particularly vulnerable. 
In response to this rapidly approaching deadline, the Network of Behavioral Health Providers (NBHP) and Mental Health America of Greater Houston (MHA) created the “Behavioral Health Affordable Care Act Initiative (BHACA).”  This grassroots, peer learning community model approach will build a network of local expert technical assistance teams that will offer community education, small group and one-on-one technical assistance, and continuing support to Houston-area mental health and substance abuse providers on pivotal administrative aspects of the ACA. The project has just received full first-year funding from the United Way of Greater Houston Community Response Fund, Houston Endowment Inc. and The Meadows Foundation.
“To our knowledge, we are the first community in the state to recognize and respond to this looming challenge for our behavioral health provider community. We believe that we have come up with a strong, local strategic design to get our providers the help they need to stay in business under the new law. We are determined not to see one provider have to shut its doors because it was unable to meet these new mandates,” stated Marion Coleman, NBHP Executive Director.  “Most importantly, every one of these new mandates is a change that will improve health care for our patients so in the long run, they are welcome changes.”
“In particular, we are extremely excited to be able to facilitate the formation of solid working partnerships between primary care and behavioral health care providers,” added Susan Fordice, MHA of Greater Houston President and CEO.  “Integrated Health Care Partnerships will be one of the pillars of the next generation of health provision, and this project will allow Houston to be in the forefront of that development.”
Houston area mental health and substance abuse providers who are interested in receiving technical assistance on ACA-related issues should contact the Network of Behavioral Health Providers at  or 512-577-2397.
Primary care providers who are interested in participating in the integrated health care partnership portion of the work should contact Mental Health America of Greater Houston at or 713-523-8963.  
The Network of Behavioral Health Providers ( is a nonprofit collaboration of close to 30 greater Houston public and private behavioral health providers committed to working together to improve the community’s behavioral health system.
Mental Health America of Greater Houston ( is one of Houston’s oldest mental health advocacy and education organizations, actively working to replace misperceptions and misunderstanding about mental illness with compassion and proper treatment; link people to mental health services; provide education and training for key sectors of the community; remove barriers to mental health care by facilitating change in systems and advocate for legislative solutions that address the vast unmet need for public mental health services.
Author: Dr. Marion Coleman
Phone: (512) 577-2397