On April 2, 2017, the National Council for Behavioral Health hosted the first National BHECON Forum at NatCon17, its national conference in Seattle. The forum provided a platform to discuss some of the common themes that emerged from the state BHECON forums, the future direction of behavioral health and economics research, and effective techniques for translating data into advocacy through storytelling.
States face similar challenges within their behavioral health systems
Throughout the series of BHECON forums that were held in Connecticut, Illinois, Missouri, and Pennsylvania, it became clear that states were dealing with similar challenges in providing behavioral health care services. Clinics struggle to fill vacancies and retain qualified staff, which affects patient care and the bottom line. This inadequate workforce, in turn, contributes to higher incarceration rates for individuals living with a mental illness. To ameliorate some of these issues, behavioral health providers are making the case to payers, state government officials, and other health providers that a system of integrated care will both improve outcomes and save money as the industry moves towards value driven health care.
Using data to drive the discussion
An important element in building the case for policy reforms that would address some of these issues is data quantifying key demographic and economic aspects of behavioral health at the state level. Information on the population living with mental illness, unmet mental health care needs, hospital utilization and charges, state mental health funding for community-based programs, the interaction between people with mental illness and the criminal justice system, and the economic burden of serious mental illness serves as the foundation for a successful advocacy campaign to reform behavioral health policy. A chartbook containing these key data points unique to each state participating in the BHECON project was prepared for their use by the Schaeffer Center for Policy & Economics at the University of Southern California.
“This alone was worth my trip to Seattle.” – Participant in the National BHECON Forum, Apr. 2, 2017
Translating data into effective advocacy tools
Integral to BHECON’s policy efforts is the translation of the available data and science into compelling and useful information for advocates and policymakers that help tell the advocate’s story. Storytelling is a powerful advocacy tool that heightens an audience’s attention, connects them emotionally, and promotes empathy and a willingness to help others. Documents such as fact sheets, web content, social media posts, infographics, and other communications tools help tell the story of how high-quality mental health care improves an individual’s overall health and well-being and makes the case for investing in mental health services.
- Thinking Ahead: What’s Next for Behavioral Health Policy?, Rebecca Farley David, Vice President, Policy & Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health
- Behavioral Health Research and Data: Where are we? & Where are we going?, Facilitator: Elizabeth Arend, Quality Improvement Advisor, National Council for Behavioral Health; Speaker: Dr. Mike Menchine, University of Southern California
- Best Practices in Advocacy Roundtable, Cliff Johnson, National Journal Membership