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Linda Rosenberg

Former President and CEO, National Council for Behavioral Health

Six Weeks until a New World Order

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Tick tock. Six weeks to go until State Planning Grant applications are due for states to move forward with Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics, and, I believe, six weeks until we enter a New World Order for specialty behavioral health care.


When the National Council crowd sourced and then promoted the concept of Centers of Excellence, we wanted to distill what the future of specialty behavioral health care looked like. What we envisioned – with your input – was a place where consumers could get (1) comprehensive care that was (2) easily accessible and delivered by (3) world class customer service, and resulted in (4) excellent outcomes that were of (5) excellent value for their payer. While organizations around the country seized the concept and wanted to embody that vision, the most common question we got back was, “what does ‘comprehensive care’/’easily accessible’/’excellent outcomes’ mean – where is the checklist?”


Now we can show you what that means and where to find the checklist: Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics (CCBHCs). For the first time in two generations, our country has a common definition for a comprehensive behavioral health provider, and it is going to change the way that organizations deliver care. Wondering if you measure up? Use a self-assessment tool to objectively measure yourself against SAMHSA’s criteria.


The “six weeks until the New World Order” is hyperbole, of course – it’s six weeks to go until August 5 when state planning grant applications are due to SAMHSA. From there we move on to the year-long planning phase, out of which eight states will be selected to participate in the demonstration program. But this six week window is not one to be missed, because it leads to a year of creating common access and quality standards for behavioral service delivery, will force the tear down of communication barriers between behavioral health and other parts of the health and social service sector, and provides the resources for organizations to not only rise to the level of a CCBHC but also maintain those efforts.


At our last count, more than twenty states were planning to move forward with CCBHCs. For those of you in states that aren’t moving forward with a planning grant, please don’t think that CCBHCs don’t apply to you. Accrediting bodies are watching closely as this process unfolds, and there’s nothing to say that managed care organizations (MCOs) won’t adopt the criteria as an expectation of their provider networks, even absent federal endorsement. In an era where payers are demanding greater value for their dollars, and there are administrative incentives to limit the size of provider networks, payers will know that CCBHCs can deliver. Just as MCOs required to have safety-net primary care organizations in their networks know exactly how to find federally qualified health centers (FQHCs), those who are looking for behavioral health organizations will first turn to CCBHCs.


And this message is for states: do you want to lower your total health care costs? Do you understand the critical role that behavioral health plays in that goal? Do you believe that setting common quality standards, requiring evidence-based practices, and providing training and technical assistance to your safety net providers will help move your health care system forward? If the answer to all of those is ‘yes,’ why wouldn’t you apply for a planning grant? Even if you aren’t ultimately a demonstration state – and we are advocating that all willing states have that opportunity – then why wouldn’t you accept planning funds that will help propel your system towards a New World Order?

There is hard work ahead of us in the weeks, months, and years to come – but we are on hand to help. We need states to commit to applying for a planning grant. And we need providers to start evaluating their services to see where they already meet the CCBHC criteria – and where you need to build new service lines or partnerships. The National Council is ready to be a resource to state governments and providers alike at every stage of the process. Please don’t hesitate to contact Chuck Ingoglia at, Nina Marshall at or Rebecca Farley at with questions about Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics, advice on how to craft your planning grant application, tips on assessing your organization’s readiness to participate, and much more.