Category Archives: Uncategorized

The Benefits of a Strategic Plan

In the unpredictable world of working in behavioral health, a solid strategic plan is essential for success. A strategic plan helps identify what an organization would like to accomplish and illuminates steps that must be taken to achieve those goals. Brown Consulting, Ltd. has been working with behavioral health providers co-creating strategic plans for 30 years. The following are the top three benefits of a successful strategic plan at a mental health organization:

1.) Improved organizational performance

One overarching benefit of strategic planning is that it contributes, in a quantifiable way, to improving overall organizational performance. As a result, the quality of services are enhanced. Job satisfaction increases because all staff members work toward setting priorities and matching ideas and resources to those priorities.

2.) Establishment of a uniform vision

Employees are the greatest source for innovative ideas. Another benefit of a strategic plan is that it brings all the minds of your organization together to establish a uniform vision. This clear communication of ideas allows for consensus on goals and plans to address them.

3.) Protection from risks

A strategic plan increases the ability of your organization to effectively deal with risks and stressors. Planning how to address difficult conditions before they arise allows organizations to be proactive instead of reactive.

A strategic plan is a necessary tool to help an organization thrive. We at Brown Consulting, Ltd. are behavioral health experts dedicated to helping behavioral health organizations succeed. Our strategic planning process is highly interactive with all levels of the organization and includes:

  • Full review of the industry trends (national, state, and local)
  • An organizational and operational analysis which includes evaluation of programs, product line, promotional/marketing strategies, and revenue sources
  • A market competition analysis
  • Strategic planning groups are conducted with various levels of the organization, including Board Members, Executive Leadership, Management, and Staff
  • Customized timeline of planning process (typically last between three to six months)

Brown Consulting, Ltd., strategic planning services assists our clients in identifying, planning, developing, implementing, and monitoring strategic initiatives for future and continued success. Every organization is different. Every strategic plan requires a unique combination of effort and development. This is why, as consultants, we approach your organizational needs individually and guarantee your satisfaction.

Time to adopt view of opioid-use disorder as chronic disease

Time to adopt view of opioid-use disorder as chronic disease

Senior Staff Writer
AMA Wire 

“There is hope,” reads the statement above the online bio for Richard Soper, MD, a specialist in addiction medicine and addiction psychiatry, but he admits to feeling pessimistic at times given the persistence of ineffective, punitive responses to the opioid epidemic.

Across his decades as a health care leader—as a clinician and in his previous service on the American Society of Addiction Medicine’s (ASAM) board of directors and as ASAM representative on the AMA Opioid Task Force—Dr. Soper has seen and felt progress in medical and policy circles toward understanding and treating substance-use disorder as a chronic condition like asthma, diabetes or hypertension.

AMA Wire Editor’s note: This story is part of a new topic hub that centralizes the AMA’s essential tools, resources and content to help you in Advocating for Patients and Physicians.

But today, he said, that forward movement sometimes seems elusive given payment and regulatory barriers that interfere with patients’ access to evidence-based care amid an epidemic that kills hundreds of Americans each day.

“Bottom line: The pendulum is swinging back,” said Dr. Soper. “It’s swinging back to judging substance use as a character flaw, not a medical disorder.”

Prior authorization tightens grip

Dr. Soper, addiction medicine chief at the Center for Behavioral Wellness in Nashville, says he’s seeing a tightening up of prior-authorization policies, a return to fail-first requirements, pharmacies refusing to fill prescriptions and law enforcement acting as gatekeepers deciding who gets access to clinical treatment.

“People want treatment; they are literally dying because they can’t get treatment,” he said. “It’s frustrating. It’s fatiguing.”

Other factors shaping Dr. Soper’s attitude include sharp increases in the cost of lifesaving drugs such as naloxone and buprenorphine, an increase in administrative burdens, and Medicaid’s 16-bed size limit on inpatient treatment centers. (As part of his declaration of a public health emergency related to the opioid crisis, President Donald Trump announced that he would grant waivers to states requesting relief from the 16-bed limit.)

Dr. Soper finds insurance plans that fail to cover non-opioid alternatives for pain treatment are particularly challenging for him and his patients.

“It’s not that there are a lack of alternatives; there’s a lack of reimbursement for alternatives,” he said. “It just befuddles me that we allow insurance companies to say, ‘We know physical therapy helps. We’re just not going to pay for it.’”


2 steps to take now

There are two things that physicians and other clinicians can do now to help end the opioid epidemic, Dr. Soper said. The first is to recognize that all physicians “have these kinds of patients.” The second is for physicians to do their part to end the judgmental attitudes substance-use disorder patients are subjected to.

“Even physicians are still stigmatizing,” Dr. Soper said. When patients struggle with treatment, it becomes incumbent on doctors to “pull them closer, then break it down and find why they did what they did.”

The latest statistics in Tennessee are as grim as they are elsewhere in the nation and the Appalachian states in particular. There were 1,631 Tennesseans who died from drug overdoses in 2016, the most ever, according to the Tennessee Department of Health (TDH). It represents a 12 percent increase from the 1,451 deaths reported last year.

Heroin was linked to 260 Tennessee deaths in 2016, a 26 percent increase from 2015. And overdose deaths related to fentanyl rose 74 percent in 2016—up to 294 from 169, the TDH reported. In 2015, Tennessee’s opioid-overdose death rate was 11th highest among U.S. states.

Signs of hope

Despite these numbers, Dr. Soper said too many pharmacies fail to carry naloxone. In light of that, he praised CVS Health pharmacies in Nashville for executing standing orders to allow naloxone to be dispensed without a prescription. Walgreens recently announced that it will stock the opioid overdose antidote in each of its 8,000-plus pharmacies across the country.

“There is hope,” Dr. Soper concluded. “But it’s hard. One of the motivations I still have is that there are a few people still alive because I was one of the tools they used.”

More on this

Reference: Robeznieks, A.. (2017. November 9). Time to adopt view of opioid-use disorder as chronic disease.. Retrieved from

Addiction Medicine: Beyond the Abstract

The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) announced in a 10/27/17 listerv email from the start of new podcast series from the Journal of Addiction Medicine,  Addiction Medicine: Beyond the Abstract.

Hosted by the Journal Web Content Editor, Shawn McNeil, MD, MBA, This new podcast is an ideal opportunity for readers and others interested in addiction medicine to get a closer look at the perspectives behind formal research articles. The podcast offers insights into the experiences of the authors and researchers behind the great work and development in the field. Listening to their stories and thought processes help listeners to connect with the experts behind the journal in a brand-new way.

Future podcasts will feature dynamic interviews with the many other experts tied to the journal and will explore an endless array of topics pertaining to addiction medicine. The next podcast is set for November to be released along with the journal issue. We hope many will join us for future installments of the podcast and we look forward to receiving feedback from our listeners.

In this very first podcast, Dr. McNeil was joined by Dr. Daniel P. Alford to discuss issues beyond the abstract. Daniel P. Alford, MD, MPH, FACP, DFASAM, is an Associate Professor of Medicine, Assistant Dean of CME, and Director of the Safe and Competent Opioid Prescribing Education (SCOPE of Pain) program at Boston University School of Medicine. Dr. Alford shared his medical background and expertise in the field of addiction medicine before delving into research material and deeper questions about the clinical practice.


(ASAM publications, email communication, October 27, 2017)

Compliance Alert Hotlines


Compliance alert hotlines for reporting a company or organization’s misconduct are common ways for employees to report unsafe conduct as well as law and policy violations. Employees can use these lines to anonymously make reports on their own time.

An organization benefits when they encourage early reporting through a hotline. This enables a company to solve a concern while it is small, before it intensifies into a large problem, well before too much damage occurs.

So, hotlines are necessary for quickly conveying important information. But are hotlines worth the investment of time and money to implement?

Hotlines are helpful in many ways

Reporters are often upset and scared. It has been shown that compliance reports tend to be more comprehensive and clear when live, experienced operators listen and make note of the complaint on a hotline as opposed to a web-based platform.

A reporting system operated by an outside organization is generally seen as more trustworthy than one operated by the employer. Additionally, third-party operators generally have more experience managing these calls, and will provide management with informative hotline data, as well as analyses of the hotline’s efficacy.

What kinds of improper conduct are reported to compliance alert hotlines?

  • employee misconduct
  • discrimination
  • sexual harassment
  • privacy/security issues
  • inappropriate staff/patient relationships
  • employee drug use
  • medication diversion
  • utilization issues
  • improper billing practices and/or clinical documentation

What about fear of retaliation? How do we implement a culture of compliance?

It is of upmost importance that reporters do not face identification, retaliation, or retribution at their organization. It is not enough to implement a third-party compliance line, but communication/training should occur that assures employees about what will happen after a report is made. Ensure that ethics and compliance trickles down from leadership. Only when an organization fosters a culture of compliance and ethical decision-making will employees feel safe to point out potential problems.

A positive reputation can be shattered in a moment

Protect your organization with a compliance alert line. Our compliance alert line supports behavioral health compliance programs by giving employees and stakeholders the option to report improper, unethical, or illegal conduct 24 hours a day. By calling the confidential and toll free Alert Line phone number, reports can be made anonymously without fear of identification, retaliation, or retribution.


The following is a testimonial from one of Brown Consulting’s Alert Line clients:

“Brown Consulting, Ltd., made reporting and tracking corporate compliance easy. They give our employees access to an impartial third party, trained in handling corporate compliance matters with confidentiality and sensitivity.

They are one of the many reasons we continue to provide quality, safe, and effective behavioral health services.”

-Kameshia Rogers, Regional Executive Director at Premier Care, Inc

Free Live Webinar from the American Society of Addiction Medicine

We are sharing the following information about a FREE webinar from the American Society of Addiction Medicine this Thursday, October 12th:


Addressing Addiction Issues Among Veterans 

Thursday, October 12, 2017

9:00 am pacific | 12:00 pm Eastern

Attend this webinar to gain insight into specific veteran issues within the context of addiction treatment. Understand the role physicians and other medical professionals can play to better serve this special population. The webinar will examine specific tools and resources for clinicians treating patients with substance use disorders, and is targeted toward clinicians, physicians, academicians, and other addiction medicine professionals who regularly interact with veterans.

Join ASAM and experts from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) for this special learning opportunity.

Learn how to:

  • Explain the impact of the opioid epidemic on the veteran population
  • Describe the unique issues veterans may encounter during treatment
  • Appraise which treatment tools are available and appropriate for the veteran population
  • Discern comorbidities within the veteran population and specific tools to treat co-occurring substance use disorders
  • Grasp a veteran’s perspective on treatment of substance use disorders
  • Recognize the role of trauma and pain and the implications for treating and screening a veteran for substance use disorder


  • Anthony P. Albanese, MD, DFASAM, Affiliations Officer, Dept. of Veterans Affairs; Clinical Professor of Medicine, UC Davis School of Medicine
  • Ismene Leonida Petrakis, MD, NIAAA Institutional Research Training Program; Yale University School of Medicine
  • Raye Z. Litten, PhD, Acting Division Director, Division of Medications Development, NIAAA

Outsourcing QI Management Services

Outsourcing QI Management Services

Quality Improvement (QI) is a methodical approach to the evaluation of practice and efforts to improve practice. State departments and accrediting bodies (Joint Commission, CARF, COA) require and evaluate specific QI processes in behavioral healthcare organizations to help maintain a set foundation of quality treatment and health status outcomes.

For many behavioral health organizations, outsourcing QI management services is a cost-effective and time saving decision that far outweighs the stress of dealing with demanding requirements by themselves. At Brown Consulting, Ltd., we specialize in Quality Improvement. We not only guarantee the implementation and management of a “Best Practice” QI culture, but we ensure full compliance with required regulations. Furthermore, we ensure the QI system we implement is sustainable and embraced by all key stakeholders. All staff are involved in the interactive process of developing, adopting, and managing the organization’s QI plan.

The Brown Consulting Ltd. Quality Improvement process encompasses a full spectrum of service. First, Brown consultants provide QI education and training to staff to assure that a QI culture to be implemented within the system is understood and embraced by all key stakeholders. Then, we utilize an interactive process with clinic staff to develop, adopt, and articulate the organization’s QI philosophy and plan. We make sure to articulate the full written QI Plan to include important aspects of care (i.e. consumer satisfaction, access, client outcomes, etc.), monitoring activities, indicators, thresholds, data collection and interpretation, trend analysis, and comparative data sources. Detailed attention is given to all regulatory requirements.

Once implemented, we manage the QI program, provide all QI functions and ensure responsibilities are articulated in a QI plan. We conduct all scheduled Quality Improvement (QI, Safety / Risk Management) monitoring evaluation and trend analysis activities to address:

  • Access
  • Client satisfaction
  • Employee satisfaction
  • Referral source satisfaction
  • Incident reports
  • Outcome effectiveness
  • Clinical peer reviews (records)

We design and produce quarterly required QI reports for your organization, and continually upgrade the QI Program. We ensure the performance and effectiveness of your organization’s QI program results in meaningful improvements within the organization and meets regulatory standards.

Quality Improvement measurement is complex and evolving rapidly. Continuous efforts are required from an entire organization to achieve stable processes. However, outsourcing QI management services can help lift this burden from your organization. Outsourcing this responsibility to the expert consultants at Brown Consulting Ltd. will allow your organization to tap into needed skills and resources without expending the time and money used on new staff. Outsourcing allows your organization to stay focused on what matters most—the mental health of patients.

5 Steps to Cultivating Regulatory Compliance and Quality Improvement at your Behavioral Health Organization

5 Steps to Cultivating Regulatory Compliance and Quality Improvement at your Behavioral Health Organization

Behavioral health agencies across the nation face ever-changing compliance and quality improvement standards. Adhering to these rules is important not only for providing a safe environment for patient care, but also for assuring that operations are as efficient and ethical as possible.

Maintaining compliance and keeping well-informed about continuously evolving standards, regulations, and requirements can be a burdensome task. This often requires a full-time commitment from one or more of your staff members. No staff member is free from the implications of the compliance process, and it is important that everyone working at your behavioral health organization is up-to-date on quality standards and protocols, at all times.

Here are five steps to developing regulatory compliance and quality improvement at your behavioral health organization:

  1. Train your staff about ongoing compliance and quality improvement standards
    • Train your staff at their new employee orientation, and maintain an ongoing training schedule.


  1. Work together to implement the proper processes
    • Conduct an annual or 6-month review your policies and procedures. Do significant changes need to be made? Would a few brief modifications suffice? Be objective. It is important to assess where your organization is, and where there are opportunities to improve.


  1. Assure your staff is consistently reminded of standards and requirements
    • Offer open meetings that allow staff members the opportunity to learn and ask questions. Hang posters reminding your team of standards. Implement a weekly organizational newsletter or email blast that offers instructive tips. Where do you have opportunities to provide this information?


  1. Evaluate your documentation procedures
    • Conduct an annual or 6-month internal audit of patient documentation to confirm that everything is complete and accurate. Review your policies and procedures to ensure your team is following all of the right guidelines. Meet with counseling supervisors about their training methods and provide them support when needed.


  1. Train your staff on how to interact with accreditation representatives
    • Prepare staff to answer compliance and quality improvement questions “on the spot”. Set aside time to conduct a survey run-through where your team engages in an accreditor/staff role-play scenario. Practice. Practice. Practice.

Remember, compliance standards are established for the purpose of delivering quality patient care. Your organization and patients will benefit if you make regulatory compliance and quality improvement a priority.

Brown Consulting, Ltd. can help you guarantee compliance and quality improvement

We have over 30 years of experience helping behavioral health organizations with compliance and quality improvement. Our extensive experience in behavioral healthcare consulting lends itself to understanding the necessary regulations and guidelines state by state. Our Regulatory Compliance services can be found here.

-Megan Phillips, M.A.

Our Need for Ethics and Fraud Prevention

Our Need for Ethics and Fraud Prevention in the Behavioral Health Treatment Industry

The alcohol and addiction treatment industry has been receiving a great deal of attention the past few years around fraudulent patient recruitment and billing practices. Nationally, major organizations like the National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers (NAATP) have focused on providing leadership and sparking a dialogue on this topic of ethical treatment practices (NAATP code of ethics). However, generally speaking, the industry is troubled.

Current State

Loopholes have allowed unethical drug treatment centers to bill insurance companies for millions of dollars’ worth of counseling and assessment fees, without necessarily helping addicts recover. When coupled with the recent opioid epidemic, some addiction treatment centers have wrongly acted on this opportunity to profit from the increased number of clients struggling with addiction.

The general population is becoming more and more aware of this unscrupulous conduct, as increased attention from the media has brought troubling treatment practices to light. Responding to the current state of affairs, the NAATP has moved beyond pledging to actually enforcing ethical treatment practices. The theme of the most recent NAATP conference could be summarized as, if our industry doesn’t change practices, and soon, it will implode.

Some of the top unethical practices NAATP and other leading organizations are hoping to eliminate moving forward include:

Patient brokering:

Unethically steering a patient with certain insurance coverage to a particular facility, and compensating from this practice. Art VanDivier, chair of the NAATP’s Ethics Committee, said the going rate to steer a patient with Affordable Care Act coverage to a particular facility is now $7,000. That sounds like a lot of money, but the clinic can bill the insurer $15,000 to $30,000 for a month of treatment, charge for lucrative drug tests along the way, and then bill for eight or so weeks of intensive outpatient treatment” (Grim, Huffington Post, 6/17/16).

Bribing clients to relapse:

“And if the patient relapses and fails a drug test, that process can start all over again, still covered by insurance. Not surprisingly, stories of patient brokers bribing people to relapse were rampant at the [NAATP] convention. The fee for that ran between $500 and $1,000” (Grim, Huffington Post, 6/17/16).

Manipulative online marketing practices:

“Third-party sites that present themselves as independent aggregators of information are often run by a single treatment center, and every phone number routes to it rather than to the various clinics the site purports to link to. “Closers” on the other end of the line are charged with persuading the family in crisis to send their loved one to that single center – even if they may be located far away” (Grim, Huffington Post, 6/17/16).

Sound treatment programs have adjusted to this new wave of enforced proper ethical conduct, responding by changing questionable practices and cleaning up their business models. However, the reputations of many programs have yet to catch up with their behavior. Currently, service providers struggle with finding balance and answering questions such as, what is appropriate compensation for marketing our program? And, how can we best work around barriers to treatment for individuals who are dealing with financial problems and/or homelessness?

Future Implications

It’s important to remember that many clients seek addiction treatment on the worst day of their life, and, when brave enough to seek treatment, they deserve to be met with respect and ethical care. Many behavioral health providers believe this and are optimistic about their industry, with hope that change is possible.


Brown Consulting, Ltd. can help you guarantee compliance

We have over 30 years of experience helping behavioral health organizations with compliance. Our extensive experience in behavioral healthcare consulting lends itself to understanding the necessary regulations and guidelines state by state. Our Regulatory Compliance services can be found here.

-Megan Phillips, M.A.


Riordan Seville, L., Rappleye, H., Schecter, A., (2017, June 26). How to Find a Good Drug Treatment Program and Avoid the Bad Ones. Retrieved from

Grim, R. (2016, June 17). Addiction Treatment Industry Worried Lax Ethics Could Spell Its Doom. Retrieved from

Is Your Organization HIPPA Compliant?

The Details Behind HIPAA

Healthcare regulations are continually evolving. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Privacy Rule provides consumers with important privacy rights and protections in regard to their personal health information. Since President Bill Clinton signed HIPAA into law in 1996, it has been continually updated to keep up with changes in data exchange, including electronic health information.

HIPAA establishes “national standards to protect individuals’ medical records and other personal health information and applies to health plans, health care clearinghouses, and those health care providers that conduct certain health care transactions electronically” (

The Act makes sense. Guaranteeing consumer privacy protections results in individuals trusting their health care providers and cultivates a willingness to seek needed services. These protections are especially important in the world of behavioral health where stigma associated with seeking services is pronounced. Furthermore, HIPAA outlines when health providers may or must disclose information such as for the health and safety of the patient or others.

However, at a time when healthcare is depending on the unrestricted flow of data to transform how care is delivered and paid for, HIPAA and its regulations have been viewed with frustration.

The apparent crackdown of HIPAA audits, and the substantial fines issued when violations are found, has led to a great deal of anxiety among healthcare providers. This is the case especially for  small entities, such as mental health agencies, who don’t have the staff or technology to keep up with an ever-changing world of electronic health information and security. Failure to comply with HIPAA can result in not only the fines mentioned above but also criminal charges and civil action lawsuits as well as providers losing their credentials or licensure.

So, does HIPAA compliance in mental health differ compared to HIPAA compliance in other areas of healthcare?

Privacy rights and protection of health information take on distinct meaning in mental health care. This is because the stigma associated with mental health conditions, sensitive issues of family dynamics and/or a slew of other factors.

One exception to the Privacy rule is psychotherapy notes. These types of notes receive special protections under HIPAA. The following was found on

The Privacy Rule defines psychotherapy notes as notes recorded by a health care provider who is a mental health professional documenting or analyzing the contents of a conversation during a private counseling session or a group, joint, or family counseling session and that are separate from the rest of the patient’s medical record. Psychotherapy notes do not include any information about medication prescription and monitoring, counseling session start and stop times, the modalities and frequencies of treatment furnished, or results of clinical tests; nor do they include summaries of diagnosis, functional status, treatment plan, symptoms, prognosis, and progress to date.  Psychotherapy notes also do not include any information that is maintained in a patient’s medical record.

Psychotherapy notes are treated differently from other mental health information both because they contain particularly sensitive information and because they are the personal notes of the therapist that typically are not required or useful for treatment, payment, or health care operations purposes, other than by the mental health professional who created the notes.

However, HIPAA treats the disclosure of mental health information to family members the same as with general health information. Unless authorized by the patient, a health care provider may only share or discuss information to the extent that family members need to know to assist in the patients care or payment of care.

Can Brown Consulting Ltd. help my organization ensure HIPAA compliance?

Yes! This specific consultation service includes conducting a full HIPAA Compliance Analysis. Our analysis involves reviewing and providing concrete examples of HIPAA Compliant:

  • Plans
  • Policies & Procedures
  • Forms
  • Contracts
  • Notices
  • Position Descriptions

Services provided also include:

  • Interactive work-groups with staff
  • Further education/training

Making sure your business in compliant with HIPAA regulations can be stressful. Let us at Brown Consulting Ltd. help you guarantee HIPAA compliance!

-Megan Phillips, M.A.

Ohio BH Redesign Updates!

Ohio BH Redesign Updates!

Ohio’s Behavioral Health (BH) Redesign DID NOT go into effect on July 1, 2017, in deference to the legislative budget process. The Ohio Department of Medicaid (ODM) and the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (OhioMHAS) provided the following updated timeline for behavioral health redesign implementation resulting from the final version of Ohio’s 2018-2019 biennial budget, Amended Substitute House Bill 49:

Aug. 1, 2017:


o   Ohio hospitals may begin delivering and billing for Medicaid behavioral health outpatient services using the new code set. This initiative is intended to increase access to behavioral health services for Ohioans in need, especially for children and multi-system youth. Early implementation by hospitals is possible because the Medicaid claims system for hospitals is separate from that used by community BH providers who are certified by OhioMHAS. This initiative is authorized by Ohio Administrative Code Rule 5160-2-75 which was reviewed by the Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review (JCARR) on July 17 for an Aug. 1, 2017 effective date. Click HERE for more details.


Oct. 1, 2017:


o   ODM rules for Medicaid community BH services will be final filed for a Jan. 1, 2018 effective date. In addition, final versions of provider manuals, coding sets and workbooks regarding the new BH code set will be publicly available. The most up-to-date versions of these documents are currently posted HERE.


Jan. 1, 2018:


o   Providers of Medicaid community behavioral health services (provider types 84 and 95 in MITS) will begin to render and bill for services using the new behavioral health coding structure and benefit package.

o   For clients enrolled in Medicaid managed care, behavioral health services will be “carved in” to Ohio Medicaid managed care plans and services will be billed directly to the individual’s plan.

o   For clients who are not enrolled in a managed care plan, services will continue to be paid through the Ohio Medicaid fee-for-service system (MITS).


For more information on Behavioral Health Medicaid Redesign, visit We value your feedback and questions. 



E. Wandersleben, e-mail communication, July 26, 2017