$148M could be saved if mental health gets better attention, study says

New Jersey taxpayers could save hundreds of millions of dollars a year and thousands of patients could have improved health and better quality of life if clinicians coordinated physical and mental health care, a new Rutgers University study says.

The report, produced by the Center for State Health Policy, found that more than a third of the $880 million in hospitalization costs in the 13 communities it studied were associated with behavioral health issues such as mental health disorders and substance use.

By focusing on patients who frequently use hospital emergency departments and in-patient services – so-called super-utilizers – health care providers could wring out millions of dollars in unnecessary services, it said. For this study, people with four or more hospitalizations in the study period qualified as high-users.

“Overall, we found that patients who are high users of hospital care and those with avoidable/preventable inpatient hospital use are disproportionately affected by behavioral health conditions, and that behavioral health conditions are associated with very high costs,” the study said.

Using billing data from 2008-2011, the researchers said about 75 percent of patients in the 13 communities who are admitted to hospitals frequently have behavioral health problems – more than twice the rate of those who are infrequent in-patients.v

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