Expanding care for people with IDD in western Colorado

Over seven million Americans have an intellectual or developmental disability (IDD).1 People who have an intellectual disability experience health inequities, due in part to barriers that impact their ability to access and use effective, appropriate health care.2 Early interventions can improve immediate and long-term outcomes for children with an IDD, including autism spectrum disorder.3,4 However, challenges obtaining a diagnosis can delay the opportunity for early intervention. One survey of centers that offer autism evaluation found that over 60% of centers had wait lists exceeding 4 months and 15% had wait lists exceeding one year.5

People with IDD also face a higher risk of behavioral health conditions like depression and anxiety.6 Factors like differences in the way people with IDD communicate and a lack of training for providers can limit access to high-quality appropriate behavioral health care.7 Challenges obtaining a diagnosis and access to health care can be exacerbated for families in rural communities who often face additional barriers like transportation and availability of providers.

Oliver Behavioral Consultants is working to improve access to behavioral health care for people with dual diagnoses of an IDD and behavioral health condition. Through support from Rocky Mountain Health Plans, a UnitedHealthcare company, Oliver Behavioral Consultants has developed new and expanded programs to reach underserved individuals and communities across Colorado, including in rural and frontier areas.

Oliver Behavioral Consultants has developed training for Licensed Mental Health providers to be better equipped to serve people who have dual diagnoses creating greater access to these services. The organization has conducted seven workshops attended by 300 mental health providers in Western Colorado. Workshop surveys demonstrate that providers feel more equipped to provide services for the dually-diagnosed population after completing the training. The curriculum is also being delivered via an online learning platform for greater access statewide.

Last year, Oliver Behavioral Consultants launched a mobile unit to reach patients in rural and frontier communities. The mobile unit brings diagnostic assessments and therapeutic services directly to families’ homes and to local community centers. Through the mobile unit, psychologists conduct face-to-face assessments and complete diagnostic tests including speech pathology, occupational therapy and behavior analysis when needed. The mobile unit eliminates the need for transportation – cited as a top barrier for patients who often need to travel to a metro area to receive a diagnostic assessment – and reduces wait times. The mobile unit has helped dozens of families obtain a diagnosis right in their community and begin accessing appropriate care and supports.

In collaboration with Rocky Mountain Health Plans, Oliver Behavioral Consultants is bringing more equitable access to care to people with IDD. By training behavioral health providers and bringing diagnostic assessments directly to rural communities, more families will receive the care they need in communities across Colorado.

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