The Department of Health has been awarded a grant to test the premise that early intervention and treatment for people with mental illness can slow the progression of their symptoms and help them remain in the workforce.

The grant project, called the Demonstration to Maintain Independence and Employment, will be a collaborative effort between the LDH Medicaid Program and the LDH Office of Mental Health. The grant, which was awarded through the Department of Health and Human Services’ Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services, will total $25.4 million over the project’s five-year span with federal funds representing $22.2 M (87.4%) and total state dollars of $3.2 M (12.6%).

Through the project, LDH will provide a full range of Medicaid-like services to 400 Louisiana working residents who are uninsured and not currently eligible for Medicaid. Recipients must be adults who are employed a minimum of 40 hours a month, age eighteen through sixty-four, with job-threatening, serious mental illness who reside in Ascension, East Baton Rouge and East Feliciana parishes.

These adults will be covered through Medicaid for their mental health treatments. The project aims to see if there is a connection between up-front intervention for mental illness and reduced health care costs later, as well as greater work force productivity.

“This project fits with our health care reform goal of a greater focus on preventive care and treating illnesses earlier rather than later,” said LDH Secretary Dr. Fred Cerise. “The investment up front could save even more health care dollars downstream, not to mention keeping the individual a productive employee, rather than missing work due to illness and becoming financially dependent on government.”

The other two states awarded similar grants are Minnesota (which ranked first in United Health's 2004 health rankings for states) and Kansas. Cerise said Louisiana received a grant because LDH employees in both the OMH and Medicaid offices aggressively pursued the funding as a way to begin a project that could improve health and ultimately reduce costs.

“We know that the Governor’s regional health care consortia have consistently raised awareness of the lack of mental health services available for citizens and attention to mental health by LDH/Medicaid, and this is something that we can point to, to show that the Department is being proactive in going after the opportunities that are out there,” said Office of Mental Health Assistant Secretary Dr. Cheryll Bowers-Stephens.  “This grant will be very significant for people in Louisiana with severe mental illness."