Association News
APA, Corporate Execs Discuss MH Coverage
Psychiatric News
Volume 36 Number 5 page 17-17

APA’s year-old initiative to establish relationships with major employers appears to be on track as APA Vice President Marcia Goin, M.D., met with representatives of the Union Pacific Railroad in Denver last fall.

The goal of this outreach effort was to educate the physicians and nurses who monitor the medical care of the company’s 53,000 employees about how workers’ well-being and the company’s productivity both benefit when the health insurance policies offer adequate coverage for depression treatment.

Goin, along with Tony Robucci, M.D., chair of the Colorado Psychiatric Society’s Public Affairs Committee, discussed topics such as the effect of untreated depression on absenteeism and worker injury, how depression symptoms often go unrecognized, and the effective pharmacologic and psychotherapeutic treatments psychiatrists can use to help depressed patients—if employers’ insurance policies provide adequate access and reimbursement.

Goin presented statistics to demonstrate how pervasive depression is and how often it goes undetected and untreated. The audience for the APA presentation was more than 90 physicians and nurses who oversee the medical care of Union Pacific’s employees in 23 Western states.

"It was heartening to see the interest and attention of these corporate policymakers and health professionals in the vicissitudes of depressive illness," Goin told Psychiatric News.

"The presentation also provided an opportunity to emphasize that psychiatrists, after graduation from medical school, spend four years developing expertise in the diagnosis and treatment of mental disorders," she said. "I underscored that in referring their patients to a psychiatrist, they can explain that they want them to be treated by a physician who is sophisticated in providing all treatments, both somatic and psychotherapeutic."

The chair of the Committee on APA/Business Relationships, Norman Clemens, M.D., noted that APA’s commitment to building these bridges "is beginning to bear fruit." He pointed out that Goin’s presentation "brought an enlightened psychiatric view of depression" to company executives who will make insurance-purchasing decisions that could improve the mental health care of thousands of Union Pacific workers and to the professionals in charge of the company’s health care structure. Goin’s "informative presentation will be a prototype for similar efforts with other large companies," Clemens said.

Since the initiative began, APA has met with three other large corporations to explain the value of ensuring that workers have access to comprehensive mental health care. "They have been very eager to work with us," Clemens said at the APA Assembly meeting in November. He added that he has been "surprised by the positive reception we have received from them."

He pointed out that APA representatives continue to be surprised at the amount of misinformation company executives have about mental illness and its treatment, and the APA business initiative plans to expend considerable effort correcting that problem. In addition, Clemens said, employers have consistently indicated that they are dissatisfied with the mental health care system and want tools to measure employees’ satisfaction with the care they do receive. ▪

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