Celebrating 35 years of making Medicare more accessible, affordable, and equitable!

CHAMP Makes Behavioral Health Services Accessible

People with Medicare who need help accessing mental health care and addiction services can look to the Community Health Access to Addiction and Mental Healthcare Project (CHAMP) as a new source of support. The Medicare Rights Center is participating in CHAMP, a new ombudsman program launched to help New Yorkers access insurance coverage for behavioral health services and understand their rights and options.

Through a designated telephone helpline, CHAMP specialists provide information about insurance rights, assistance appealing denials for mental health and addiction care, and counseling on low-cost care options. The CHAMP helpline and Medicare Rights’ National Consumer Helpline have been shared in CHAMP promotional materials and among the community-based organizations in the CHAMP network.

To prepare the staff for CHAMP, Medicare Rights Education Coordinator Emily Whicheloe and Client Services Associate Samantha Weckesser provided training on Medicare coverage of mental health care and addiction services. The staff learned about mental health services Medicare covers, how Medicare pays for mental health care, how to identify medications related to mental health conditions, and strategies to assist helpline callers. They also learned how to apply Mental Health First Aid techniques when appropriate, with clients, family, or friends.

In January, Weckesser presented on the basics of Medicare at a CHAMP Intensive Training in Albany for the CHAMP network, reviewing eligibility rules, the parts of Medicare, and covered services and costs, specifically regarding mental health and addiction services.

CHAMP is supported by the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services and the New York State Office of Mental Health. The program is led by the Community Service Society of New York, in partnership with The Legal Action Center, the New York State Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare, The Legal Aid Society, and community-based organizations. Through CHAMP, Medicare Rights is providing even more comprehensive Medicare counseling and working to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health care.

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