Dr. Maggie Bennington-Davis Testified Before Senate Finance Committee

She was the only psychiatrist on the panel

OPINION -- The U.S. Senate Finance Committee (on which Senator Ron Wyden serves as the ranking member) held a hearing on the state of mental health care in America last Thursday, at which Oregon’s own Maggie Bennington-Davis, MD (who graduated from OHSU’s medical school and psychiatry residency program and went on to work at Salem Hospital, then was chief medical officer at Cascadia BH services before becoming CMO at HealthShare, the largest CCO in Oregon) was one of the four notable persons invited to testify before the committee.

Dr. Bennington-Davis was the only psychiatrist on the panel, which also included a mental health policy expert from Utah; Linda Rosenberg, the leader of the National Council for Behavioral Health, the largest and most influential community mental health provider organization; and Brandon Marshall, an all-star NFL wide receiver for the New York Jets, who has gone through mental health treatment and has become a staunch public advocate for expansion of mental health services.

The hearing, which apparently was the first one on mental health issues that the Finance Committee has held since 1999, was partly aimed at addressing the impact of a bill (the Excellence in Mental Health Act). That bill, whose primary sponsor was Senator Stabenow from Michigan, is very important in that it created a new concept of Certified Community Behavioral Health Centers, somewhat like FQHCs in that they would be funded directly with federal funds, but with a focus on expanded and coordinated care for persons in the community with significant mental health and/or substance use disorders. The original bill authorized a pilot study of 8 states (drawn from an initial pool of 24 states that applied) to implement these centers. Oregon was recently selected as one of the states to participate in the pilot study. The panel members presenting at the hearing all endorsed the notion of this approach being more quickly expanded to all 50 states.

Maggie did a great job of covering a wide array of concerns regarding the quality of services in the US, citing a number of examples of programs in Oregon that attempt to address these issues, such as prevention and early intervention, the importance of trauma-informed care, the value of improved and expanded coordination and integration of services, as well as improved coordination with the police and criminal justice system in identifying and providing better and more patient-centered care for persons with all kinds of mental health and substance use problems. She was particularly eloquent and persuasive in her presentation and responses to questions from the members of the committee.

Dr. Bennington-Davis’ prepared testimony is available for download and the entire hearing can be viewed at this link (the actual hearing begins at about the 32 minute mark of the video link). The entire hearing is definitely worth watching.

We all can be proud of Dr. Bennington-Davis’ excellent advocacy and of OHSU’s part in helping her to become the effective health leader that she clearly is.

Dr. Pollack is a professor of public policy in the Department of Psychiatry at Oregon Health & Science University.

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