BHECON, in partnership with the National Council for Behavioral Health and Sens. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), hosted a Congressional staff briefing to highlight how CCBHCs are partnering with local law enforcement to connect community members to timely behavioral health treatment and help officers focus more of their time on their main duty: keeping communities safe. The briefing brought together law enforcement officers and clinic leaders who urged Congress to act quickly to pass the Excellence in Mental Health and Addiction Treatment Expansion Act (S. 1905/H.R. 3931 [115th]) to extend the CCBHC demonstration.
Reducing Criminal Justice Costs and Recidivism
In many communities across the country, jails and prisons act as the largest mental health and addiction treatment facilities in their area because there are simply not enough community-based treatment options available. CCBHCs have begun to fill these gaps in unmet need as they are required to provide a wide array of evidence-based services and create partnerships in their communities, including with law enforcement agencies, in exchange for a payment rate that covers the costs of these expanded services.
Roughly 70 percent of individuals incarcerated in Niagara County, N.Y., live with a serious mental illness or substance use disorder or both. Deputy Chief Daniel Engert from the Niagara County Sheriff’s Office shared that his department’s collaboration with its local CCBHC, BestSelf Behavioral Health, has led to increased treatment services within the jail, a mobile crisis unit that can connect individuals to community-based treatment immediately upon their release from incarceration, and a solid continuum of care that keeps individuals in treatment and out of jail.
Chief of Police Paul Williams, of Springfield, Mo., highlighted efforts between his agency and Burrell Behavioral Health, a CCBHC in southwest Missouri, to equip officers with tablets that would allow them to call a behavioral health clinician while on patrol and provide individuals experiencing a behavioral health crisis the opportunity to receive immediate attention and be connected to the appropriate services.
The CCBHC model has allowed Burrell to support the staffing for this 24/7 crisis response line, and to upgrade to a more secure telehealth platform to use with the tablets. “In a study we conducted in 2017, of the people who received access to the tablets, 87 percent were diverted from inpatient psychiatric hospitalization, only 16 percent were referred to an emergency department, and none were incarcerated,” said Chief Williams. “That is a massive improvement over the status quo, when the default outcome was taking them to jail or the hospital.”
Increasing Access to Mental Health and Addiction Treatment
In northeastern Oklahoma, Grand Lake Mental Health Center has drastically increased its service array since becoming a CCBHC and has created programs that serve individuals when and where they need help, according to Larry Smith, Grand Lake’s chief operating officer. For example, the CCBHC model has allowed Grand Lake to create an intensive outpatient psychiatric urgent care office that is open around the clock to receive individuals in crisis, including those who first make contact with a police officer who can then drive them to Grand Lake. Since implementing this and other programs that create new places to take people in crisis rather than to jails or hospitals, Grand Lake has saved police officers more than 124,091 miles of driving, the equivalent of five trips around the world.
What’s Next for CCBHCs?
As it stands, CCBHCs in Oregon and Oklahoma will lose their funding on March 31, 2019, as will CCBHCs in Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania on June 30, 2019, if Congress fails to act swiftly. “We cannot afford the loss of life or the cost of not continuing CCBHC services,” said Larry Smith during the briefing. “Every day a decision is put off, the system suffers because of the unknown. The answer is clear: we must act now.”
This article originally appeared in the National Council’s Capitol Connector and was drafted by Shelley Starkey.