OP-ED: CONGRESS MUST SAVE PROGRAM THAT EASES ACCESS TO INTEGRATED CARE

By JOE MASCIANDARO: For More Info, Go Here…

Funding for a key program that aids access to community-based behavioral health and addiction services is set to end soon unless Congress acts.

In 2017, Congress created the Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics (CCBHC) program to improve access to community-based behavioral health and addiction services, regardless of an individual’s ability to pay. New Jersey and seven other states participated in the CCBHC pilot program providing prompt, intensive, coordinated, and affordable care and treatment for thousands of individuals in crisis, many of whom are struggling with co-occurring disorders. The funding for the CCBHC program in Oregon and Oklahoma ended on March 31, 2019 and is set to end on June 30, 2019 in the remaining states, including New Jersey.

Congressional action is needed to authorize an extension of the CCBHC demonstration project to ensure that access to lifesaving treatment remains a reality for those in desperate need. Legislation was reintroduced on March 14 in hopes of ensuring CCBHCs can continue to provide rapid access to community-based addiction and behavioral health services. The bipartisan Excellence in Mental Health and Addiction Treatment Expansion Act (S.824/H.R.1767) would expand the CCBHC program to 11 new states and add two more years of critical funding for the eight states participating in the CCBHC program. Support of this legislation is crucial to ensuring CCBHCs can further equip communities with the vital resources needed to turn the tide on mental health and addiction crises, while further eroding the associated stigmas.

Individuals with co-occurring disorders represent a large percentage of emergency department admissions and are frequently readmitted due to a fragmented and uncoordinated care system that lacks the necessary follow-up and social support services that individuals with co-occurring disorders require. In Bergen County alone, 65 percent of emergency department admissions are individuals with co-occurring disorders who either voluntarily, or involuntarily, are being assessed for in-patient admission. Additionally, our jails and homeless shelters are quickly becoming the largest providers of mental healthcare as a result of the elimination of hundreds of thousands of in-patient beds nationally.

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