July 1, 2020

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Medicaid Program Innovation Increases Access to Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Treatment Amid COVID-19 Crisis

Maryland Department of Health Awards Pilot Program Contract to Privia Health

Baltimore, MD – The Maryland Department of Health’s (MDH) Medicaid Program today launched the Collaborative Care Model (CoCM) pilot program to reach, diagnose and treat HealthChoice patients who have access to primary care, but may not receive needed behavioral health care – as demand for services rise sharply during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“One in five Americans have experienced mental health issues in the past year, but only a quarter are reported to have received effective mental health care,” said MDH Secretary Robert R. Neall. “The Collaborative Care Model is an opportunity to get more people into needed care for mental health or substance use disorders. It’s another example of how Maryland’s Medicaid Program continues to transform care for our most vulnerable citizens.”

“The premise behind the model is care integration – meeting a patient in their current care environment where treatment can be readily accessed and destigmatized – to improve the chance for success in treatment or recovery,” said Chief Operating Officer and Medicaid Director Dennis R. Schrader

“Given that most people with behavioral health problems are seen by primary care providers and not behavioral health specialists, improving behavioral health treatment through Collaborative Care interventions is necessary now more than ever, especially during this unprecedented crisis,” said MDH Behavioral Health Administration (BHA) Deputy Secretary Dr. Aliya Jones. 

According to Dr. Jones, Maryland behavioral health partners and outpatient mental health clinics have experienced an upsurge in behavioral health care inquiries due to the COVID-19 pandemic as reported in a recent MDH BHA Provider Survey on People Seeking Health Care During COVID-19. Cases of anxiety and depression have been on the rise nationwide fueled by COVID related social isolation and unemployment stressors. Furthermore, during the first quarter of 2020, Maryland substance use related deaths increased after a promising downward trend the prior year according MDH Vital Statistics Administration reports.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) have approved the CoCM pilot program. “We are committed to supporting states that seek to test policies that are likely to improve health because we believe that promoting independence and improving health outcomes is in the best interests of the beneficiary and is consistent with the fundamental objectives of the Medicaid program,” said Calder Lynch, Administrator and Director for Center for Medicaid and CHIP Services.

 The Collaborative Care Model, which includes a primary, behavioral health and psychiatric care practitioner, will be tested in three diverse regional CoCM sites. The locations include an obstetrics-gynecology practice, an urban site and a rural site, which can also provide services by telehealth to bridge resource gaps that often exist in rural communities. The CoCM pilot will run July 2020 through 2023.

Site operations and services will be managed by Privia Medical Group, which was selected by MDH through a competitive process. Privia Medical Group is part of Privia Health, a national physician organization caring for more than 2.6 million patients across the country.

 “This pilot program expands services to the thousands of Medicaid beneficiaries we serve across the state. Through our partnership with Mindoula, we have been aggressively addressing the behavioral health crisis,” said Sam Starbuck, Vice President, Privia Quality Network. “This new program supports our efforts to expand that fight and bring much-needed assistance to some of our most vulnerable populations in new and unique ways. We believe this pilot is only the beginning of what will be continued expansion of available resources to people suffering from mental illness in Maryland.'

“It is an honor to make the Collaborative Care Model available to Medicaid beneficiaries through our partnership with Privia,” said Clare McNutt, Vice President of Partnerships and Collaborative Care for Mindoula. “By virtually integrating behavioral health treatment into the primary care setting, CoCM gives us a way to ensure that the behavioral health needs of vulnerable and underserved patients can be addressed in Privia practices, while simultaneously supporting self-isolation and social distancing as needed during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

 Medicaid uses pilot programs to test the effectiveness of new methodologies that would not be available under current state and federal regulations before statewide implementation. Pilot programs are evaluated on their ability to better serve and improve the health outcomes of Medicaid participants. HealthChoice is the umbrella over Maryland Medicaid’s managed care organizations covering 85 percent of Medicaid participants.


About Privia Health

Privia Health is a national physician organization that transforms the healthcare delivery experience for physicians and consumers. For more information visit @PriviaHealth.


About Mindoula

Mindoula is a next generation population health management company that scales the human connection through technology in addressing mind, body, and life challenges. For more information visit

The Maryland Department of Health is dedicated to protecting and improving the health and safety of all Marylanders through disease prevention, access to care, quality management and community engagement.

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