The Behavioral Health + Economics Network, known as BHECON (pronounced “beacon”) unites diverse stakeholders to examine and advance policy reforms that strengthen states’ behavioral health delivery systems. Led by the National Council for Behavioral Health, along with state associations of behavioral health providers, BHECON builds capacity for increased advocacy at the state level to improve the lives of individuals living with serious mental illness through legislative or regulatory action. Through a series of community events, BHECON engages individuals, providers, legislators, criminal justice officials, advocacy organizations, primary care providers and organizations, and others who are economically impacted by the lack of access to needed behavioral health services to engage in problem-solving and leverage health economic data to drive policy change.

BHECON also maintains the Research Hub, a central repository for health economic data and research on the total costs of untreated mental illness, along with other important topics related to access to care. BHECON partnered with the Leonard D. Schaeffer Center for Health Policy and Economics at the University of Southern California to aggregate data on the state of behavioral health in each of the participating states. Comprehensive, state-specific behavioral health data chartbooks are developed for participating states and that data is used to create advocacy materials showing the return on investment and potential cost savings of fully funded behavioral health services.

In 2016 – 2017, BHECON partnered with five states -Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, Missouri, and Pennsylvania- and hosted a series of widely attended forums examining behavioral health delivery system challenges and policy solutions. This generated a Consensus Statement on State Policy Reform summarizing the policy issues that were identified and require legislative or regulatory action, plus the recommended changes that would help improve their residents’ access to timely, high-quality mental health and addiction care. The Statement, endorsed by state association partners in each of the five Cohort 1 states, addresses such critical issues as the nexus between the behavioral health and criminal justice systems, the chronic behavioral health workforce shortage, and the investment in evidence-based behavioral health treatment. BHECON has also partnered with New York to raise the profile of behavioral health and the importance of safety net funding in providing needed community services.

In 2017 – 2018, BHECON, has re-engaged with Cohort 1 and also welcomed three additional states -Kansas, Minnesota and Alaska- as Cohort 2 through a highly competitive application process. In this second full year of BHECON activities, the focus has been on turning ideas into action and BHECON has evolved to include not just forums, but Hill Days, advocacy trainings, legislative briefings and grassroots campaign development. Each state has curated their focus in line with the BHECON Consensus Statement and current state legislation to move the dial on increasing access, addressing the workforce shortage and criminal justice reform.