Systems Transformation

Meeting the Moment: Expanding Access to Behavioral Health Care

By Megha Poddar on July 12, 2021
mother and children

Behavioral health is foundational to improving health outcomes.

 

That's why state and local leaders have put forth policies and innovative pilot programs designed to transform access to behavioral health services by meeting people where they are – in communities. Reforms include enabling proactive community and home outreach; expanding the reach of mobile health clinics; embedding care in school settings; and establishing mobile crisis teams of behavioral health specialists who are equipped to respond to 911 calls. 

 

The populations most in need of behavioral health services also tend to be those the least likely to interact with a behavioral health clinic, or feel comfortable bringing up mental or behavioral health issues in a traditional health care setting. Community-centered care not only provides easier access, it also makes early identification and treatment of unmet needs possible, so people receive treatment before more serious behavioral health conditions develop.

 

Unite Us Meets the Moment

Now is the time for governments, health systems, plans, and communities to build delivery systems that effectively and equitably serve all individuals, taking advantage of new streams of federal funding dedicated to behavioral health reform. Plus, new regulations have expanded coverage for telehealth services, allowing health plans to reimburse for telehealth consultation for behavioral health services. These changes have improved access to care in urban and rural settings and reduced the stigma associated with seeking behavioral health services, particularly for historically marginalized racial and ethnic minorities and LGBTQIA+ communities.

 

At Unite Us, we’re meeting this moment of increased awareness and greater opportunity by improving equitable access to behavioral health services, redefining the delivery of integrated care and improving health and well-being. Ours is the only end-to-end social care solution poised to take full advantage of these sea changes in the approach to the current gap in accessing behavioral health services. 

 

Unite Us is committed to advancing initiatives that improve access to behavioral health care and related social services. We’re supporting several innovative initiatives with partners across 42 states. Here are just two examples:  

 

In Colorado, we partner with the Mental Health Center of Denver (MHCD). They work to bridge co-occurring mental health and unmet social and physical health needs through care coordination. MHCD has seen the direct, positive impact of using Unite Us’ technology infrastructure:
“Our staff are excited about using the Unite Us Platform because we’re seeing results. One staff member was working with a client that we serve and they were able to get them resources within 24 hours. That’s usually unheard of in other systems and those are the type of results that we want to see that meets our driving need of getting access to care for the people that we serve.” – Alires Almon, Director of Innovation at MHCD.

 

We partner with the Virginia Mental Health Access Program (VMAP),  which works to connect children and adolescents to mental health services across the state.

“By becoming a part of the Unite Virginia network, VMAP is able to increase access to necessary mental health care services for Virginia providers and their pediatric patients. The Unite Us Platform is a huge step towards meeting VMAP’s mission of helping health care providers take better care of children and adolescents with mental health conditions. We are so excited to be a part of this important program and look forward to seeing the Unite Virginia network support not only providers using VMAP, but also the greater Virginia health care community at large.” – Ally Singer Wright, Program Director at VMAP. 

A new wave of funding. Are you next?

At Unite Us, we're ready to work with more partners interested in creating an equitable, accessible, and effective system for behavioral health care. Below are just a few federal funding opportunities and initiatives that provide grants to state agencies, local behavioral health providers, and community organizations. Unite Us encourages our partners to explore these opportunities.

 

Federal block grants will distribute $3 billion in American Rescue Plan funding — the largest aggregate amount of funding to date for the Community Mental Health Services Block Grant (MHBG) Program and Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant (SABG) Program.

 

Ongoing federal initiatives provide grants and funding to local providers and share a common goal of improving behavioral health delivery. Three examples;

  • The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) initiatives increase access to trauma-informed services for children and families who experience traumatic events.
  • SAMHSA’s Project AWARE (Advancing Wellness and Resiliency in Education) connects school-aged youth and families with behavioral health needs to appropriate services. 
  • The Federal Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics (CCBHC) Model establishes integrated models of care through care coordination and increases community access to behavioral health services. 
  • The U.S. Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA)’s Pediatric Mental Health Care Access (PMHCA) Program integrates pediatric primary care with behavioral health care via referrals and telehealth. 

Many innovative solutions within healthcare have struggled to fully incorporate mental health treatment and providers. Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) and the broader movement to value-based care are solutions that have tried to address this. Now, we see the same pattern, as whole-person care supported by social care referral platforms becomes more of a standard practice. Unite Us seeks to ensure that the networks we power are comprehensive and can serve the many needs of entire communities. We know that together, we can build and sustain a robust, integrated public health infrastructure that meets individuals where they are and promotes increased access to and coordination for mental health services. 

 

Join the movement today! 

 

 

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