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Law Enforcement & CCBHCs: Increasing Access to Treatment, Decreasing Recidivism

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Shelley Starkey

Law Enforcement & CCBHCs: Increasing Access to Treatment, Decreasing Recidivism

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The National Council for Behavioral Health, in partnership with Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Roy Blunt (R-MO), hosted a Congressional staff briefing on Tuesday to highlight how Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics (CCBHCs) are partnering with their local law enforcement to connect community members to timely addiction and mental health treatment and help officers to focus more of their time on their main duty: keeping their communities safe. The briefing brought together law enforcement officers and clinic leaders who urged Congress to act quickly to pass the Excellence in Mental Health and Addiction Treatment Expansion Act (S. 1905/H.R. 3931) to extend the CCBHC demonstration.

REDUCING CRIMINAL JUSTICE COSTS AND RECIDIVISM

In many communities across the country, jails and prisons act as the largest mental health and addiction treatment facilities in their area because there are simply not enough community-based treatment options available. Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics have begun to fill these gaps in unmet need as they are required to provide a wide array of evidence-based services and create partnerships in their communities, including with law enforcement agencies, in exchange for a payment rate that covers the costs of these expanded services. Roughly 70 percent of individuals incarcerated in Niagara County, NY live with a serious mental illness or substance use disorder, or many times both. Deputy Chief Daniel Engert from the Niagara County Sheriff’s Office shared that his department’s collaboration with its local CCBHC, BestSelf Behavioral Health, has led to increased treatment services within the jail, a mobile crisis unit that can connect individuals to community-based treatment immediately upon their release from incarceration, and a solid continuum of care that keeps individuals in treatment and out of jail.

Springfield, Missouri’s Chief of Police Paul Williams highlighted efforts between his agency and Burrell Behavioral Health, a CCBHC in southwest Missouri, to equip officers with tablets that would allow them to call a behavioral health clinician while on patrol, and provide individuals experiencing a behavioral health crisis the opportunity to receive immediate attention and be connected to the appropriate services. The CCBHC model has allowed Burrell to support the staffing for this 24/7 crisis response line, and to upgrade to a more secure telehealth platform to use with the tablets. “In a study we conducted in 2017, of the people who received access to the tablets, 87 percent were diverted from inpatient psychiatric hospitalization, only 16 percent were referred to an emergency department, and none were incarcerated,” said Chief Williams. “That is a massive improvement over the status quo, when the default outcome was taking them to jail or the hospital.”

INCREASING ACCESS TO MENTAL HEALTH AND ADDICTION TREATMENT

In northeastern Oklahoma, Grand Lake Mental Health Center has drastically increased its service array since becoming a CCBHC and has stood up programs that serve individuals when and where they need help, according to Larry Smith, Grand Lake’s Chief Operating Officer. For example, the CCBHC model has allowed Grand Lake to create an intensive outpatient psychiatric urgent care office, which is open around the clock to receive individuals in crisis, including those that first make contact with a police officer who can then drive them to Grand Lake. Since implementing this and other programs that create new places to take people in crisis rather than to jails or hospitals, Grand Lake has saved police officers over 124,091 miles of driving, the equivalent of five trips around the earth.

Chief of Police Rick McCubbin said his officers in Shepherdsville, Kentucky often spend up to 12 hours between transportation and drive times when responding to an opioid overdose due to the lack of suitable places to take someone experiencing such a crisis since Kentucky was not initially included in the CCBHC program. The situation is about to change for Chief McCubbin’s community thanks to a CCBHC expansion grant recently awarded to a local provider, Centerstone. “Hearing this from our local provider feels like a miracle, because for the past several years my pie-in-the-sky dream has been that one day our community would have access to a 24-7 crisis drop-in facility staffed by mental health professionals, where our officers can drop someone off and know they will get detoxified, receive medical treatment, and get connected to community-based treatment that might keep them from the next overdose,” said Chief McCubbin. “The fact that this is becoming a reality for our community is an absolute game changer.”

WHAT’S NEXT FOR CCBHCs?

As it stands, CCBHCs in Oregon and Oklahoma will lose their funding on March 31, 2019, as will those CCBHCs in Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania on June 30, 2019 if Congress fails to act swiftly. “We cannot afford the loss of life or the cost of not continuing CCBHC services,” said Larry Smith during the briefing. “Every day a decision is put off, the system suffers because of the unknown. The answer is clear: we must act now.” The National Council urges Members of Congress to act quickly to pass the bipartisan Excellence in Mental Health and Addiction Treatment Act (S. 1905/H.R. 3931) to extend current CCBHCs’ activities for one more year and expand the program to eleven more states that applied but were excluded from participation by the eight-state limit in the current law.

Materials shared during the briefing are available here.