There’s a new voice at HHSC helping address issues and policies regarding mental / behavioral health in the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and Medicaid.
Dr. Emilie Becker, a 21-year veteran of public and private psychiatric practice, was hired in October as Medicaid / CHIP mental health director. With board certifications in adult, child and forensic psychiatry, Becker is responsible for providing direction for policies and monitoring of behavioral health and medical clinical services offered through Medicaid and CHIP. Simply put, one of Becker’s main jobs is to offer guidance on the ways in which mental health overlaps with medical care for both children and adults in the two programs.
“I’ll be taking a closer look at what mental health policy currently is with Medicaid and CHIP,” Becker said. “What’s provided and what isn’t, what needs augmentation and what doesn’t.”
Before coming to HHSC, Becker most recently served as behavioral health medical director at the Department of State Health Services (DSHS). She comes to her new position recognizing the need for integrated health services, ways to streamline treatment options for patients with both mental and medical health issues.
“Ultimately, it’s all about how to get patients with a combination of mental and medical health issues in the same place instead of ping-ponging them between different offices,” Becker said. “You could have one-stop shopping – a sort of ‘Target’ for health care where people of all ages with different needs could go.”
Becker knows, though, that even the best ideas must fit within the realities of what funds are available.
“I think with almost any policy there’s always a certain tension: ‘This would be beneficial to cover, but does it fit within the budget?’ I fully expect mental health to be within that spectrum. For example, Medicaid covers outpatient therapy and inpatient hospitalization, the two polar ends of the spectrum, but not anything in between such as crisis services or partial hospitalization or residential treatment. What I’d likely propose is more tools in the toolbox, so you could use the more expensive tools less often.”
In addition to her other duties, Becker also will continue to lead or be involved in initiatives to improve behavioral health care, cross-agency work she started while still at DSHS.