Updated March 30 at 10:30am

Continuum eyes collaboration on mental-health care

By Harold Ambler
Contributing Writer
A behavioral health care partnership is brewing among Care New England, Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island and The Providence Center. More

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Health Matters

Continuum eyes collaboration on mental-health care

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A behavioral health care partnership is brewing among Care New England, Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island and The Providence Center.

It involves The Providence Center establishing its first for-profit subsidiary, Continuum Behavioral Health, to be run by Executive Director Ian Lang, who recently left his job as director of marketing and communication at HealthSource RI. Details of the developing partnership are still being worked out, said Lang, who previously worked at The Providence Center before joining HealthSource RI.

Part of the impetus for the collaboration stems from the provisions for mental-health care under the Affordable Care Act that attempt to provide parity for mental and physical health on the part of insurance carriers.

“Parity gives more of a guarantee of revenue,” Lang said, “in the sense that mental health now has to be covered, as well as a way of understanding that behavioral health issues comprise a chronic disease that really needs to be treated and managed.”

Still, the full flowering of mental-health care parity remains elusive, as Lang himself pointed out. “More than 50 percent of psychiatrists don’t currently accept insurance,” he said.

Patricia Recupero, president and CEO of Butler Hospital, raised similar concerns in testimony last month to the Joint Commission to Study the Integration of Primary and Behavioral Health in Rhode Island. “Parity is a good thing but it will not help if there are no providers accepting insurance,” Recupero said.

Continuum will be a competitor of Butler Hospital for behavioral health care dollars, but at the same time Care New England, of which Recupero is executive vice president, will be one of Continuum’s partners.

The layered arrangement bespeaks the importance that behavioral health care delivery holds for the state, according to Joan Kwiatkowski, CEO of PACE Organization of Rhode Island. PACE has partnered with The Providence Center in delivering integrative behavioral health care to seniors during the past five years. Kwiatkowski said the new venture combining Care New England, Blue Cross and The Providence Center (through Continuum) is above all, about meeting patient needs.

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