New behavioral health initiative aims to treat whole person

Published October 22, 2020

Reimagining behavioral health. For the Health of America.

COVID-19 combined with the increased awareness of the impact of racial inequities on overall health are driving health plans to redesign programs to support behavioral health in more accessible and affordable ways.

Editor's note: This story is being updated to coincide with the latest Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS), The Health of America Report research findings on millennial health. The latest report reveals nearly one-third of millennials have a behavioral health condition and those rates continue to rise. Mindful by Blue KC is making behavioral health services more accessible and affordable. It is one of many ways BCBS companies are demonstrating their commitment to improve millennial health by addressing long-term behavioral health needs. Learn more about millennials' health here.

The convergence of a public health crisis and an on-going climate of social protests against systemic racism and injustice is shining a spotlight on mental health. Blue Cross Blue Shield companies are prioritizing behavioral health and reinventing the way care is delivered to employers and members with an emphasis on making programs more affordable and accessible.

While Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas City (Blue KC) began working on their unique behavioral health initiative due to growing needs in this space long before COVID-19 hit, their launch of a new suite of services called Mindful by Blue KC couldn’t have been better timed. The initiative builds on the health plan's commitment to care for the health and wellness needs of the whole person. It comes at a time when experts are seeing a notable increase in conditions including major depressive disorder, tobacco and substance use disorders and anxiety since 2014, according to the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association

Mindful by Blue KC goes beyond the usual scope of standard Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) by providing easier access to help, more ways to use it, and more care visits. The program aims to remove stigmas associated with mental health by normalizing the use of behavioral health services.

In addition, Blue KC includes cultural sensitivity protocols to put patients at ease while improving engagement and health outcomes by offering members the ability to select from a diverse team of providers who can help break down barriers along ethnic, religious or language lines.

“The launch of this program comes at a critical time. In the last several months, we have been challenged as a community and as individuals by events that have had a direct impact on our behavioral health. Access to affordable behavioral healthcare has never been more important,” Blue KC President and Chief Executive Officer Erin Stucky said.

Additional program highlights include:

  • Mindful Advocates – Licensed behavioral health clinicians available 24/7 by phone trained at navigating care, crisis management, benefits guidance and connecting members to appropriate services.
  • Online Therapy – Text or scheduled live chat, phone or video therapy to help with conditions like depression, anxiety and stress.
  • Expedited Access Network – Expedited response service to find an appointment with a behavioral health provider in the earliest window possible for a Blue KC member in crisis.
  • Employer Workshops and Resources – Workshops on Mental Health First Aid at Work and how to build an emotionally healthy workplace.
  • Online Self-Guided Tools – Interactive, individually-tailored applications to address depression, anxiety, stress, substance use, chronic pain and sleep challenges.
  • Well-Being Resources – Resources and support services including three visits per issue, at no cost, for help with major life events (divorce, adoption, loss), stress, financial issues, childcare and other everyday challenges.

“It’s estimated that one in five U.S. adults live with a behavioral health condition, and half do not receive necessary treatment,” said Blue KC Senior Vice President and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Greg Sweat. “We estimate more than 100,000 members may have an untreated behavioral health condition, and we aim to remedy that by offering Mindful by Blue KC to address barriers to behavioral healthcare, such as access, affordability and stigma associated with using services — and we strive to empower our members to make behavioral healthcare part of their normal care routines.”

Click here to see how other Blue Cross Blue Shield companies are supporting mental health needs of members across the country. 

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City is independent licensees of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, an association of independent, locally operated Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies.

The Blue Cross Blue Shield Association is an association of 35 independent, locally operated Blue Cross and/or Blue Shield companies.