Dr. Leonhard Meets with Medicaid Task Force to Support Innovations

Dr. Christoph Leonhard, PhD, ABPP, Professor in the clinical PsyD program of The Chicago  School of Professional Psychology at Xavier University of Louisiana, met recently with the Medicaid Integrated Assessment Task Force, a group created by Representative Barbara Norton and others, with the goal to “make a thorough study and evaluation of Louisiana’s current statewide system of healthcare delivery for Medicaid enrollees with serious mental illness.”

Dr. Leonhard is a member of the Louisiana Psychological Association’s task group to study innovations in healthcare, a committee chaired by Dr. Lacey Seymour. Leonhard is also the Chair of the Health Psychology Interest Area for the Psychological Association.

Representative Norton’s 2017 House Concurrent Resolution No.55 created the Medicaid Task Force, and had noted, “…the mental health and well-being of the residents of Louisiana is a vital issue that affects not only quality of life, but also the health of communities, families, and economic stability.”

According to the Department of Health and the Resolution, the purpose of the Medicaid Integrated Assessment Task Force is to study and evaluate Louisiana’s current statewide system of healthcare delivery for Medicaid enrollees, and especially with concern for those with
serious mental illness.

The task force members should strive to “render objective, fiscally feasible recommendations to the legislature for the implementation of policies that could be adopted by the state for the delivery of integrated primary and behavioral health services for Medicaid enrollees,” according
to the agency officials.

Data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration indicates that people with mental illness are more likely to have chronic health conditions, such as high blood pressure, asthma, diabetes, heart disease, and stroke, than those without mental illness, and those individuals are more likely to use costly hospitalization and emergency room treatment.

Individuals with primary health conditions such as asthma and diabetes report higher rates of substance use disorders and serious psychological distress.

According to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS):
1) Fifty percent of Medicaid enrollees have a mental health diagnosis;

2) People diagnosed with mental illness and common chronic health conditions have healthcare costs that are 75% higher than those without a mental health diagnosis;

3) for individuals with a co-occurring mental illness or substance use disorder and common chronic condition, the cost is two to three times higher than what an average Medicaid enrollee pays for healthcare;

4) and costs of treating those with diabetes is as much as four times higher when a cooccurring
condition such as depression or alcohol addiction is untreated.

The members of the Task Force will be asked to give ideas for innovations that can address these and other issues, and work with the existing programs where feasible.

Dr. Lacey Seymour will be working with a group of psychologists, including Dr. Leonhard, to develop responses for the Medicaid team, according to several sources.

Dr. Chris Leonhard is a health psychologist and originally earned his degree from University of Nevada and completed his internship and postdoc at Harvard Medical School (McLean and Mass General Hospitals). He is Board Certified in Behavioral Psychology and currently is
conducting research in Behavioral Medicine and physical activity promotion

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