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Opening Plenary Session

Posted By Matthew P. Martin, Saturday, October 21, 2017

Welcome to the opening plenary session for the 2017 CFHA Annual Conference in beautiful Houston, Texas. Our fearless leader, Tina Runyan, began with a “state of the association” speech describing the strong financial footing of CFHA. She expressed appreciation for the vibrant, member-driven community. “I don’t know of an organization where you can post a question and get responses from some of the founders who will pepper you with their wisdom. It’s emblematic of the passion that people bring to this cause. It’s so rich.”


She announced that the Technical Assistance product line at CFHA is off the ground now. “The goal is to share our expertise and get our brand on the national scene,” she said. Natalie, Levkovich, past CFHA president, was instrumental and initially spearheaded this effort to market CFHA expertise. “Within six months we were already off the ground, thanks in large part to Natalie’s work”.

The new Executive Director of CFHA, Neftali Serrano, was the plenary speaker Thursday evening. “We made it!” he exclaimed walking onto the stage and describing the time period when Hurricane Harvey threatened to cancel the conference. “We are talking today with the backdrop of a devastating hurricane. Thank you for being here. We have a great conference in store for you.”


The theme of the plenary was “The Future of Integrated Care”. Neftali immediately debunked any preconceptions about his ability to peer into the future of the field. He related his postdoctoral experience at a large FQHC on the west side of Chicago where he struggled to develop a brand new integrated care service. His failures eventually led him to success and to finding a home at CFHA. “No matter where you are working in this field, CFHA can be your home.”


Using a colorful and sharp-looking slide deck, Neftali continued by listing several trends that suggest where the field is headed. First, “Integrated Care Everywhere”: Neftali argues that we must support integrated behavioral health wherever the patients go whether it is the emergency room, a community mental health clinic, long-term care, or specialty medicine. The field cannot just stay in primary care. Second, “Data Explosion”: modern technology is capturing enormous amounts of health data. How do we use all this available data? What technology is available for us now to use?


Third, “Getting Out of the Exam Room”: telehealth will continue to grow as a viable alternative to traditional medical visits. How do we stay connected with patients beyond the exam room? How can our treatment plans extend beyond just face-to-face time? Fourth, “Workforce Development”: How do we support care organizations in training their employees in IBH? Is there value in creating a specialization for IBH? Neftali cites the special interest group within the American Psychological Association for psychologists working in primary care. He also argues that this work should be fun and attractive for new trainees. Can we avoid the soul-crushing aspects of current work?

Fifth, “Paradigm Shifts in Chronic Disease Management”: Neftali warns we must keep up with and assimilate new research that challenges old and current paradigms regarding integrated care. For example, the field is recognizing the need for offering both mental health and substance use through behavioral health integration. Sixth, “Payment Reform”: Neftali admits this subject can be boring and high-level. “Most of you want to just see the patient. But it’s important to know what changes are coming down the pike”. Value-based payment is the future. Click here for a review of the recent policy summit on value-based payments.


Finally, “Model Wars”: Neftali predicts that the field will continue to increase sophistication in identifying core elements of integrated care that cut across models. Today, though, all the models contribute to the big picture. How can we incorporate a new piece of a particular model into our care? We wrestle with these models and that is a good thing, he notes. But he rejects the scarcity hypothesis that there is not enough work or demand for particular models. “If you bring your passion to the field, the field will return that passion with opportunity”.


“There is no turning back”, Neftali concludes. “We have tasted the future and we are not going back”. He announced that CFHA will continue to share expertise through Technical Assistance, Online Forums, and the New Newbie Friendly Pages. He also announced a new forthcoming website that will host podcasts, blogs, webinars, a video channel, and more social media. It’s an exciting time to be a part of CFHA. Continue to come back to the blog for future plenary session reports. 

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What We Do

CFHA is a member-based, 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to making integrated behavioral and physical health the standard of care nationally. CFHA achieves this by organizing the integrated care community, providing expert technical assistance and producing educational content.