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Minnesota, Kansas and Alaska Selected to Bolster State-led Advocacy

February 7, 2018

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Joy Burwell
JoyB@TheNationalCouncil.org
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Building off a successful first year, the Behavioral Health + Economics Network will continue breaking down policy silos to expand access to mental health services

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Despite growing need for mental health and addiction services, state health care policies often lag far behind what is needed to ensure access to timely, high-quality care for every American.  In response, the National Council for Behavioral Health launched the Behavioral Health + Economics Network (BHECON) to bolster state-led advocacy aimed at increasing access to care.

Following its successful first year, BHECON now welcomes a second cohort of partners that include state associations of behavioral health providers in Minnesota, Kansas and Alaska. They join Cohort 1 states Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, Missouri, New York and Pennsylvania. The BHECON project is supported through generous grants from Alkermes, Genoa and the New York Community Trust.

“Health care providers and communities do not have the necessary resources to serve all individuals living with serious mental illness. To strengthen the continuum of care, there must be coordination between state governments and the federal government, involvement from the criminal justice system and other social service systems, and capacity in the behavioral health safety net,” said Linda Rosenberg, president and CEO of the National Council for Behavioral Health. “In the coming year, the two BHECON cohorts will strengthen state-based advocates’ capacity to drive reforms needed to protect and expand their residents’ access to the full array of required treatments and supports.”

The three state associations that make up Cohort 2 responded to a Request for Applications issued by the National Council. Over the next 12 months they will convene stakeholders to examine behavioral health delivery system challenges and draft policy solutions. They will develop relevant sound economic data, support state-led advocacy and host forums with representatives from behavioral health providers, law enforcement, as well as state Medicaid and mental health agencies. The economic data compiled and presented will be used to convince legislators of the value of access to treatment to push reforms. One identified solution that will be discussed is Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics (CCBHCs), created through the enactment of the Excellence in Mental Health Act, that have already expanded access to intensive community-based services for individuals with untreated severe mental illness in the eight states where the model is currently in effect.

“Mental health and substance use providers are facing extraordinary demands to provide services. The Alaskan Governor, Legislature, and Department of Health & Social Services have met these challenges head on. Their work highlights a universal truth: behavioral health is essential to achieve individual wellness, strong communities, and budget savings,” remarked Tom Chard, Executive Director, Alaska Behavioral Health Association (ABHA). “ABHA works to ensure access to quality, cost-effective behavioral health treatment. BHECON will highlight the vital role behavioral health providers play in system reform. We look forward to learning from others and sharing our Alaska experience.”

“The Minnesota Association of Community Mental Health Programs is thrilled to join the second BHECON cohort. BHECON is an excellent opportunity to improve the lives of Minnesotans living with serious mental illness by advancing policy reforms that strengthen community mental health and safety net programs. Through our participation we hope to highlight community mental health’s perspective in health reform, showcase the innovations of our CCBHCs and advance our policy agenda with industry and policymakers,” said Jin Lee Palen, Executive Director, Minnesota Association of Community Mental Health Programs.

“Our participation in BHECON provides an opportunity to develop and replicate successful behavioral health programs or models as well as share our successes and lessons learned with other states. This is exciting endeavor for the Association of Community Mental Health Centers of Kansas to undertake. We look forward to participating and seeing the positive impacts it will have on the Kansans we serve, “Kyle Kessler, Executive Director, Association of Community Mental Health Centers of Kansas stated.

For more information on BHECON visit http://www.bhecon.org.

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The National Council for Behavioral Health is the unifying voice of America’s health care organizations that deliver mental health and addictions treatment and services. Together with our 2,900 member organizations serving over 10 million adults, children and families living with mental illnesses and addictions, the National Council is committed to all Americans having access to comprehensive, high-quality care that affords every opportunity for recovery. The National Council introduced Mental Health First Aid USA and more than 1 million Americans have been trained.

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