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In the News: Blue Shield's Shruti Kothari on Mental Health and the Pandemic

Kothari, director of industry initiatives at Blue Shield of California, writes in CalMatters about mental healthcare needs changing amid the pandemic

Greater numbers of adults report that their mental health has worsened since the pandemic. Shruti Kothari, director of industry initiatives at Blue Shield of California, with Christopher Koller of the Milbank Memorial Fund, co-wrote an op-ed in CalMatters outlining the mental health crisis and how the healthcare system needs to improve to serve people. Kothari and Koller call for a stronger level of primary care that integrates mental health with physical health.

Shruti crop
Shruti Kothari

To confront old ways of thinking and chart a new course, our organizations are kicking off a conversation about integrating physical and behavioral health to envision a new health care experience in California. We see a future where emotional well-being is considered equally as important to your health as your blood pressure. Other states have already begun to implement new methods of integrating primary and behavioral health care, and California can do the same.

Success will require a seismic shift in thinking across our health care system – and that’s why we are opening this conversation to all – from competitors in the health care space to “disruptors” in the technology field. Together, we’ll need to put in place the payment, workforce training and technology tools needed to scale existing behavioral integration models. Business as usual must be a thing of the past.

The calls to address equity and to treat our minds as essential to health as our hearts has never been stronger. Collaboration among competitors in the health care industry is essential to achieve our shared goals for healthier bodies and minds. Unless we work together to align the way we pay for care with our goals of integrating behavioral health into primary care, we won’t be able to create the health system we deserve – and won’t be ready to meet our mental health needs in the next public health crisis.

Blue Shield announced in November its work with Milbank to strengthen health care. A webinar is planned for Feb. 24, at 1 p.m., PT.

Read the full CalMatters story, published Feb. 22, here.