Despite increased recognition of the need for treatment, far too many Americans cannot access the behavioral health care services when and where they need. In the wake of sustained funding cuts to community-based mental health services, jails have become the largest providers of mental health treatment in the U.S. Meanwhile, facing workforce shortages, dismally low reimbursement rates, and financing methodologies that often fail to cover critical treatment services, health care providers and communities struggle to build capacity to serve all individuals living with serious mental illnesses.
Recognizing the urgent need to improve Americans’ access to behavioral health care, Congress and states have begun to turn their attention to this important issue. The passage of the Excellence in Mental Health Act of 2014 was a first step toward strengthening states’ delivery systems; yet, there remain a multitude of barriers to this and other transformation efforts. Creating a more robust continuum of care requires coordination between state governments and the federal government, engaging the criminal justice system and other social service systems, and strengthening capacity in the behavioral health safety net. Unfortunately, policy discussions all too often occur in industry-specific silos and are divorced from scientific and economic data on the impact of key reforms. Through a series of forums BHECON will gather stakeholders to analyze the current landscape, discuss cross-industry reforms, and present the economic case for an improved behavioral health care system across America.