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New state forums drive stakeholder solutions

August 12, 2016

Solutions are out there for expanding access to mental health treatment. In many cases, it’s a matter of getting stakeholders in one room and finding out how they can help each other make it happen.

That is the thought process behind the launch of the Behavioral Health + Economics Network (BHECON). The initiative, developed by the National Council for Behavioral Health, aims to foster coordination between community health providers, state and federal government officials, and members of the criminal justice and social services systems.

BHECON is convening a series of forums in Illinois, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Missouri and Pennsylvania to discuss challenges facing the mental healthcare industry and changes that can be made to strengthen and enhance the delivery of care.

The first BHECON forum, held Aug. 4 in St. Louis, was an example of how the conversations between stakeholders could be productive, says Rebecca Farley, senior director of policy and advocacy at the National Council. In the opening presentation, mental health providers lamented the difficulties they faced recruiting and retaining clinicians at all levels.

“They talked about a number of reasons behind this,” Farley tells Behavioral Healthcare. “Community-based provider organizations have a hard time paying competitive staff salaries because reimbursement rates are so low. The solution they identified to that particular barrier is the Excellence in Mental Health Act, which permits certified community behavioral health clinics to be reimbursed for the actual costs of providing services, including staff salaries.”

The next BHECON forum on Aug. 17, also scheduled for Missouri, will incorporate local law enforcement and representatives from the criminal justice system to discuss improving the state’s crisis system. Upcoming events in Illinois and Connecticut will explore the elements of a comprehensive, high-performing behavioral health system that can be supported by a Medicaid transformation waiver, Farley says.

Topics for future events will continue to evolve, she adds.

“As we hold each forum, we’re identifying new opportunities for growth,” Farley says. “One thing that has already come out is that we need more economic research on the impact of behavioral healthcare and spillover effects of untreated mental illness. We’re working to identify research priorities in addition to policy solutions.”

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