Melanie Dallas: Highland Rivers will implement a new model

Melanie Dallas: Highland Rivers will implement a new model

It’s no secret that we in the public sector use a lot of abbreviations: CSB, which stands for Community Service Board, a Georgia public safety net behavioral health service provider, such as Highland Rivers Behavioral Health ; DBHDD, the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities, which is Georgia’s statewide behavioral health agency; and SAMHSA, the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

But starting in January, Highland Rivers will add a new set of letters: CCBHC, or Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic. And while it’s important to know what these letters stand for, understanding what they mean is far more important.

First, a little background. The CCBHC model was developed by SAMHSA and implemented as a demonstration in eight states beginning in 2017. Since then, SAMHSA grants – either to specific clinics or to state agencies like DBHDD – have added CCBHCs across the United States. Today, more than 500 CCBHCs operate in 49 US states and territories.

So what is a CCBHC? A Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic is a specially designated clinic that provides a full range of mental health and addictions services. CCBHCs serve everyone who walks through the door, regardless of diagnosis or insurance status. If that already sounds a lot like Highland Rivers Behavioral Health, it is. But there are also some key improvements.

First, the CCBHC model emphasizes a holistic approach to health, integrating mental and physical health. CCBHC services include not only a continuum of behavioral health services, but also screening and monitoring of basic physical health indicators, ensuring chronic disease risk factors are identified early and individuals are linked to care. appropriate health. To this end, CCBHCs coordinate with primary care providers to meet the physical health needs of individuals.

An equally, if not slightly more, important difference is how CCBHCs are funded, including how services are reimbursed. Current Highland Rivers funding includes direct contract funds from DHDDD – fixed amounts regardless of the actual cost of the services provided – as well as Medicaid reimbursements for the services provided (also recognized as being well below the actual cost of providing services). While this structure allows us to keep our doors open, it does not allow us to pay competitive salaries.

However, CCBHC’s funding and reimbursement mechanisms not only bear the true cost of expanding and maintaining services, but are also value-based, flexible, and allow CSBs like Highland Rivers to invest in the growth of our organization with more competitive salaries. In fact, the 2022 CCBHC Impact Report, released in October by the National Council for Mental Wellbeing (formerly the National Council for Behavioral Health), found that providers operating as CCBHCs saw an increase recruitment and retention, and lower vacancy rates.

According to the impact report, the results of the implementation of the CCBHC have been impressive and significant:

• CCBHCs serve approximately 2.1 million people nationwide.

• CCBHC status allows clinics to serve an average of over 900 more people per clinic than before the implementation of CCBHC, an increase of 23%.

• CCBHCs provide access to mental health and addictions care much faster than the national average, with the vast majority providing access in a week or less.

• CCBHCs provide access to some form of treatment for substance use disorders at much higher rates, with 82% of CCBHCs offering one or more forms of drug treatment, compared to only 56% of addiction clinics in the national scale.

• By becoming a CCBHC, the clinics created approximately 11,000 new behavioral health jobs nationwide, which is critical to the ongoing labor shortage and growing demand for services.

For these reasons, Highland Rivers is eager to become a CCBHC, and planning has already begun. While our agency will benefit, the greatest benefits will be for the communities and individuals we serve – with increased access to services, delivered more quickly, efficiently and effectively, through stronger and more sustainable Highland Rivers Behavioral Health. .

Melanie Dallas is a licensed professional counselor and CEO of Highland Rivers Behavioral Health, which provides treatment and recovery services for people with mental illness, substance use disorders, and intellectual and developmental disabilities in a 13-county region. of northwestern Georgia which includes Murray and Whitfield. counties.

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