Study ways to improve behavioral health care

The recent town meeting visit by New York State Office of Mental Health Acting Commissioner Kristin Woodlock at Buffalo Psychiatric Center demonstrates the critical importance of outreach and visibility during times of transition and funding challenges. In the well-attended audience were providers, private practitioners, members of the evolving Health Home models, consumers and even Sheriff Timothy B. Howard. Woodlock candidly presented the progress, challenges and new initiatives designed to address the ever-changing needs of mental health consumers and providers.

I was moved by the emotion in the room and the desire to impress Woodlock with scores of family experiences improved because of providers in our community, including a heavy emphasis on Buffalo Psychiatric Center.

What became increasingly clear is the tug people feel between providing quality care within affordable confinements using an evidenced-based model. It is an enormous task within liberal parameters, not to mention tight budgets and inescapable pressures to prove return on investment.

Can behavioral health, something so uniquely personal and individually crafted, be measured? I offer that it can be integrated into the scientific metric standards other industries must abide by to stay in business. There is a science of metrics that can validate program outcomes and how funding can be productively allocated to show taxpayers their money made a measurable difference.

I would encourage that all new social service, behavioral health, primary care and any health care initiative include the scientific metric models available to prove return on investment and meaningful personal and community change.

Woodlock’s willingness to spend more than four hours listening to everyone highlights her willingness to hear all suggestions to improve behavioral health. I applaud her openness to do so.

Hanan Ismail, M.D.

President, Med-Var Inc.