APS says decrease in funding led to close

Published: Feb. 5, 2015 at 9:38 PM CST|Updated: Mar. 5, 2015 at 11:35 PM CST
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ALABAMA (WAFF) - Thousands of mental health patients around North Alabama are scrambling to find new care.

Alabama Psychiatric Services announced Wednesday they are closing all of their facilities next Friday, which will affect 30,000 patients across the state.

They're pointing to Blue Cross Blue Shield for reducing funding.

They didn't say how much funding was cut, but they did say benefits have been transitioning from a fee-per-patient model to a fee-for-service model over the last decade.

In a statement, Blue Cross Blue Shield said:

"The many pressures brought on by the Affordable Care Act, mental health parity laws, and the ever-increasing demand for higher quality healthcare at lower costs have affected healthcare providers and insurers. In order to succeed going forward, providers and insurers are having to adapt their business models."

Blue Cross Blue Shield says they were notified of the closure last Friday.

Since then, they have been working with APS to help patients transition to new behavioral health providers, but that is not always easy and seamless, especially since there is a wait list for most psychiatric services in the area, sometimes up to two months.

Chief Clinical Officer at WellStone behavioral Health in Huntsville Jeremy Blair said there is a shortage of psychiatrists across the state.

If people are unable to get in to see one quick enough there could be a lapse in care, or even medication.

"It definitely could have a ripple effect," Blair said. "It just depends on the patient or the circumstances. Some clients are fine not taking their medication but most are not. That is probably one of the biggest, important things out of all of this. Make sure you follow up with a provider in the community."

Where you go depends on which facilities take your insurance, but that isn't the only obstacle.

Even if you find a replacement psychiatrist or therapist, there are often long wait times to get in to see that specialist - usually between two weekweeks and months.

The ripple effects go on from there.

For example, people need access to their medications.

If they wait too long to schedule an appointment at a new facility, there is a chance there could be a lapse in taking the medication.

Not to mention, there is already a shortage psychiatrists in this state, according to Blair.

"Any time an entity closes, the main goal is to make sure those practitioners stay within the community and make sure that they relocate with a provider somewhere here," Blair said.

The problem with that of course is funding.

Blair said there is never enough.

He also said it is up to insurance providers to provide equitable rates.

WellStone Behavioral Health said they have had a steady increase in people calling to seek services.

The insurance provider also says they are in the process of contracting with additional providers to help patients.

APS put out a list of network providers, and you can find a link that here.

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