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Pointing the Way : Advisory Firms Cut Through the Confusion in Complex Field of Psychiatric Medicine

August 27, 1988|LESLIE BERKMAN | Times Staff Writer

So far LifeLink has contracts with 12 Southern California firms, including large medical groups and Health Net, an health maintenance organization based in Woodland Hills. After extensive pre-marketing and completing a pilot project in Oklahoma, LifeLink began providing services in Southern California last January. Since then the number of workers and dependents receiving its services has more than doubled to 110,000 from 43,000. And LifeLink expects to gain six to 10 more corporate contracts by January.

Hoops said the strongest calling for LifeLink services is now from large companies with work forces of at least 1,000 employees who feel an obligation to provide mental health and drug dependency benefits but can't afford to without case management.

LifeLink is not the only psychiatric case management company that has seen its business suddenly take off like a kite in a gale of cost concerns.

David McDonnell, chief operating officer for Preferred Health Care in Wilton, Conn., said his company became a case management specialist in mental health care in January, 1987, with the signing up of 75,000 beneficiaries at General Telephone of California. Since then it has added nine more corporate clients and its beneficiary roll has grown to 750,000.

And other health maintenance organizations besides PacifiCare have also affiliated with specialized firms to handle chemical dependency and psychiatric disorders.

In March, Health Plan of America, a statewide HMO based in Orange, contracted with U.S. Behavioral Health, a case management firm based in Emeryville, Calif., to handle its substance abuse cases.

Gregory Armer, senior vice president of Managed Health Network, a health maintenance organization in Santa Monica that specializes in mental illness and chemical dependency, said he has seen interest in his company's service blossom in the last two to three years.

"We have felt mental health benefits are a niche in the health care delivery system not well taken care of by major insurance companies or the majority of HMOs," Armer said.

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