Bet­ter way to bill for ser­vices

Pe­ti­tion calls for prov­ince to change fund­ing model for psy­chol­o­gists

Edmonton Sun - - NEWS - Jeff Labine @lef­flabine

A group of psy­chol­o­gists be­lieve there’s a bet­ter way to pro­vide men­tal health ser­vices that not only frees up doc­tors but could save the prov­ince money as well.

The Ed­mon­ton Psy­chol­o­gists In­tera­gency Com­mit­tee, made up of three pri­vately run busi­nesses, has cre­ated a pe­ti­tion on­line ask­ing for sup­port to change the fund­ing model for how Al­ber­tans ac­cess men­tal health ser­vices.

Within the first six days, the pe­ti­tion sur­passed its orig­i­nal goal of 2,500 sig­na­tures.

One of the main asks by the com­mit­tee, which formed last year, is to al­low reg­is­tered psy­chol­o­gists to bill Al­berta Health Ser­vices (AHS) di­rectly like phys­i­cal ther­a­pists, chi­ro­prac­tors or op­tometrists.

“(The) sys­tem is back­logged,” said Janet Ryannewell, CEO and se­nior psy­chol­o­gist with Kells Coun­selling.

“I’m re­ferred to all the time by doc­tors. I end up with clients who come much later, of­ten re­ferred by doc­tors, who may be on a num­ber of med­i­ca­tions when we could have found a dif­fer­ent way to in­ter­vene.”

Un­less an in­di­vid­ual or fam­ily can af­ford a pri­vate psy­chol­o­gist or has cov­er­age through an in­surance plan, pa­tients of­ten have to go to a physi­cian for men­tal-health is­sues, she said.

Cory Hrushka, CEO and psy­chol­o­gist with In­sight Psy­cho­log­i­cal, said the vast ma­jor­ity of calls doc­tors deal with in­volve men­tal health.

Gen­er­ally, the doc­tor will see the pa­tient for a few min­utes be­fore re­fer­ring them to a psy­chol­o­gist.

He said some­times a doc­tor will bring in a be­havioural spe­cial­ist but they don’t ad­dress larger is­sues such as trauma.

Steve Buick, a spokesman for the as­so­ciate min­is­ter of men­tal health and ad­dic­tions, said the UCP gov­ern­ment pro­vides fund­ing to Al­berta Health Ser­vices, which em­ploys more than 400 psy­chol­o­gists.

“Our gov­ern­ment has the great­est re­spect for the work of psy­chol­o­gists,” he said. “They’re an in­te­gral part of health care, man­ag­ing men­tal-health prob­lems as well as work­ing as part of the team sup­port­ing pa­tients with other con­di­tions like heart dis­ease and can­cer.”

He said the gov­ern­ment looks for­ward to work­ing with the Col­lege of Al­berta Psy­chol­o­gists to im­prove ac­cess but noted the pro­posal for di­rect billing is in op­po­si­tion to a Mackin­non panel rec­om­men­da­tion with the gov­ern­ment pur­su­ing al­ter­na­tives to fee-for-ser­vice pay­ment, to pro­mote a more in­te­grated team ap­proach.

The Mackin­non re­port, also known as the blue-rib­bon panel, looked at Al­berta’s fi­nances with rec­om­men­da­tions to cur­tail spend­ing.

Buick added the rec­om­men­da­tion was for physi­cians but ap­plies to health pro­fes­sion­als in gen­eral.

Hrushka said the gov­ern­ment doesn’t have to use a fee-for-ser­vice model.

“We’re work­ing with a gov­ern­ment agency right now ... to help them re­tool what they’re do­ing to make it more cost-ef­fec­tive be­cause they’re pay­ing peo­ple to triage,” he said.

“I’m al­ready pay­ing some­one to do that pri­vately. It would save (the gov­ern­ment) $200,000 for one agency. That’s just one agency. Why don’t we just do the screen­ings, we will work with you on this and you’ll save a whole bunch of money and we’ll get more busi­ness. And we’ll get more spe­cial­ized care for those in­di­vid­u­als that may need it. It is not cost­ing them any­thing to work with us.”

The com­mit­tee ex­pects to for­ward the pe­ti­tion along with its rec­om­men­da­tions to the gov­ern­ment and Pre­mier Ja­son Kenney by this week.

David bloom/post­media

Reg­is­tered psy­chol­o­gists Cory Hrushka, left, and Janet Ryan-newell have launched an on­line pe­ti­tion to im­prove men­tal health ser­vices in the prov­ince.

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