Sponsored: How Empire BlueCross BlueShield Expands Access to Behavioral Health Care

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CRAIN’S: You have forged four partnerships to increase access to behavioral health services. Please explain how they will improve access to care.

BOUNCHER: To remove barriers to care and improve access, Empire has added Alma, Headway, NOCD and Ophelia to the company’s network, all offering virtual options for behavioral healthcare:

• Alma makes it easy for people to find mental health care by helping providers accept insurance and build successful private practices.

• Headway is building a new mental health care system that is accessible to everyone by breaking down barriers faced by providers, health plans and the patients they serve.

• NOCD is the #1 provider for the treatment of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

• Ophelia aims to make evidence-based treatment universally accessible, with a focus on the 80% of Americans with opioid use disorders who cannot access care.

These four vendors are now all part of Empire’s Trade Member Network and, in some cases, other lines of business. These new providers leverage our strong network, which includes Talkiatry and Talkspace partners.

CRAIN’S: What are the greatest unmet behavioral health needs?

BOUNCHER: It all starts with access. If there are people who know they need care but have difficulty getting it, that’s a problem. Solving this problem is a big part of our mission to materially and measurably improve the health of all New Yorkers, and it drives our work to build our network with new, innovative provider partners. These partnerships are already having a real impact: for example, more than 5,700 Empire members have already received mental health care through Headway since it joined the network.

CRAIN’S: Why does virtual care work so well for most behavioral health services?

BOUNCHER: Life has changed a lot during the pandemic, but one of the bright spots that has come out of it has been more openness to virtual care – on both sides – patient and provider. There are a lot of behavioral health interactions that can meaningfully happen with virtual care because connection is at the heart of them, and those connections can happen virtually.

1 Mental Health America. Ranking of access to care, adults with friend who did not receive treatment. 2022. Available at https://mhanational.org/issues/2022/mental-health-america-access-care-data.

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