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Industry Groups Seek $38.5 Billion in Emergency Funds for Behavioral Health Organizations

April 07, 2020

The National Council for Behavioral Health, in conjunction with the American Society of Addiction Medicine, on Tuesday sent a letter to Congressional leaders requesting $38.5 billion in emergency funding for behavioral health organizations “to avert a large-scale public health calamity,” with a large portion of the funds “to be set aside for behavioral health organizations that are enrolled in Medicaid.”

The request was supported by 40 industry organizations.

National Council said that based on an assessment of 131 clinics, CBHOs anticipate an average reduction in revenue caused by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic of 49.16% over the next year, which would translate to $38.467 billion lost by CBHOs in 2020.

“As frontline providers and because of the enormous scale of need for treatment during this time, organizations primarily treating individuals with mental health and/or substance use disorders, including all levels of care such as residential, intensive outpatient, and outpatient programs, that are accredited by an independent, national accrediting organization, as well as CMHCs (collectively, behavioral health organizations), have been put in a financial crisis and are in jeopardy of failing,” National Council President and CEO Charles Ingoglia, MSW, and ASAM President Paul Earley, MD, DFASAM, wrote in the letter.

A collapse in such organizations would result in community health centers, urgent care facilities and emergency departments being flooded by patients normally served by the behavioral health providers.

Providers in peril

National Council is now conducting a survey of its 3,300 member organizations. In the meantime, several groups across the country have outlined their financial challenges as a result of COVID-19:

  • The New Jersey Association of Mental Health and Addiction Agencies said 47% of its members polled said they have closed programs, and they report revenue reductions between 60% and 90%. Some providers in the association have reduced their staffs by half.
  • The Ohio Council for Behavioral Health and Family Service Providers said 46% of its member providers have less than 30 days’ worth of cash on hand, and 55% are using reserves to meet basic operational costs.
  • The California Council of Community Behavioral Health Agencies said 40% of clinics it surveyed plan to furlough or lay off staff.
  • Nearly 60% of CBHOs in Arizona said they are considering layoffs or program closures, and 41% said they have less than 30 days’ worth of cash on hand.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday, EHR platform Qualifacts said that a poll of its behavioral healthcare customers shows that weekly client appointments are down 16%, from 1.1 million in the week of March 8 to 939,000, as a result of shelter-in-place directives. Arkansas (31% drop), Pennsylvania (28%), New Jersey (25%), Alabama (24%) and South Carolina (20%) have seen the largest reductions.

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