Awhile back the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services released preliminary guidance to state Medicaid agencies (AHCCCS) regarding a new federal funding opportunity to coordinate and integrate primary, acute, behavioral health, and long term supports for folks with chronic illnesses.  The guidance encouraged state Medicaid agencies to work with partners to provide technical assistance for quality home and community-based services, innovative service delivery models, and person-centered programs and practices. Basically, the program is designed to develop “health homes” to enrollees who have chronic conditions by enhancing case management, care coordination, health promotion, transitional care, individual and family support, referral to necessary services, and the use of health information technology.

We’ve been working with AHCCCS over the last couple of months to analyze the feasibility of developing integrated health homes for folks with Serious Mental Illnesses.  As you may know, folks with Serious Mental Illnesses can be profoundly affected by chronic (yet preventable) diseases, as evidenced by the fact that they die 25-30 years younger than folks without mental illnesses. This week, AHCCCS formally submitted a Letter of Request to CMS for the planning grant.  In the coming months, we will work closely with AHCCCS and our community stakeholders to plan for and pursue integrated health homes for the SMI population across the state.  By improving coordination of care and increasing access to primary care and prevention services, we expect to see meaningful improvements in quality of life and health status.  This is a very exciting opportunity that can result in significant health gains for a vulnerable population in Arizona.