Institute for Behavioral Health

Brandeis Health Plan Surveys on Alcohol, Drug Abuse, and Mental Health Services

Health plan decisions can influence patients' access to care and the cost and quality of care they receive. The Round 3 Brandeis Health Plan Survey on Alcohol, Drug Abuse, and Mental Health Services for benefit year 2010 and the Parity Follow-up Survey for benefit year 2012 will provide a current picture of the complex and changing organization of behavioral health services in private health plans. The surveys come at an important time, following rapid changes in the health care system, including the recent federal mental health parity law and national healthcare reform legislation. Funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the 2010 and 2012 surveys will explore new issues related to: 

  • The 2008 federal parity law and subsequent regulations;
  • The 2010 national healthcare reform legislation;
  • Increased use of incentives for performance and quality;
  • Growing role of the internet and electronic health records;
  • Introduction and expansion of wellness programs;
  • Increased focus on medical necessity criteria; and
  • Integration of behavioral health into primary care.

In addition, we will track changes in a wide range of areas included in prior rounds:

  • Plan characteristics
  • Contracting with vendors
  • Benefit design
  • Network management
  • Provider payment and risk sharing
  • Pharmacy arrangements
  • Screening in primary care
  • Entry into specialty treatment
  • Treatment approaches
  • Continuation in treatment
  • Utilization management techniques
  • Quality assurance/improvement

The 2012 Parity Follow-up will provide detailed information on how behavioral health services have changed after the initial implementation period and adoption of the final parity regulations. 


The first round of the Brandeis Survey in 1999 provided the first in-depth, nationally representative information about both administrative and clinical aspects of behavioral health care provided by private health plans through their managed care products. Round 2 was conducted in 2003, with heightened focus on primary care and psychotropic medication use, as well as the prior areas.


Numerous publications and presentations have resulted from both the 1999 and 2003 surveys. An overview of findings from the 2003 survey is available in:

Horgan CM, Garnick DW, Merrick EL, Hodgkin D (2009). Changes in How Health Plans Provide Behavioral Health Services. Journal of Behavioral Health Services & Research, 36(1):11-24. 

Brandeis Research Team

Researchers at the Heller School's Institute for Behavioral Health, Brandeis University are leading this research initiative. Mathematica Policy Research, Inc. is conducting the survey, as they have for the prior two rounds. The Brandeis research team includes:

Constance M. Horgan, ScD, Principal Investigator

Sharon Reif, PhD, Co-Principal Investigator

Maureen Stewart, Ph.D., Project Director

Deborah W. Garnick, ScD, Investigator

Dominic Hodgkin, PhD, Investigator

Elizabeth L. Merrick, PhD, MSW, Investigator

Grant Ritter, PhD, Statistician