Baker administration’s ‘roadmap’ seeing some benefits

By Danielle Ray
March 4th, 2023
CSO Executive Director Karin Jeffers helped advise the state on the roadmap.
CSO Executive Director Karin Jeffers helped advise the state on the roadmap.

More than two dozen mental health services centers across the state have been designated Community Behavioral Health Centers (CBHC) as part of former governor Charlie Baker’s last administration days community health services expansion efforts his office called a “roadmap for behavioral health reform.”

The state is expanding community health services to address the pairing of overall mental and physical health through the addition of crisis intervention teams, a 24-hour help line, and the CBHCs, seven of which are in western Massachusetts. Clinical and Support Options (CSO) has three CBHC areas covered by four offices – Athol, greater Gardner, Greenfield, and Northampton – and the other CBHCs in western Mass are Behavioral Health Network, the Brien Center, and the Center for Human Development.
CSO Executive Director Karin Jeffers helped advise the state on the roadmap. She said the CBHC funding will allow clinics to hire more psychiatric nurses, medical assistants, and case managers as well as offer urgent care and extended hours.

CSO is providing many of the new services and Jeffers applauded the state for changing the way mental healthcare is paid for, making it more coordinated, far-reaching, and inclusive. When asked if they are already seeing some benefits, she said “absolutely.”

“The same day/walk in urgent access is a tremendous benefit to the communities we serve, as well as the availability of weekend and evening appointment times,” Jeffers noted. “The flexibility and improved access are critical to serving the needs of those seeking behavioral health supports — both adults and for youth and families. The addition of nurses, care coordinators, and peers as part of the array of services further helps to coordinate services and ensure that we are treating the ‘whole person,’ including integration with medical needs, peer support groups, and coordination with other providers and stakeholders.”

She said CSO’s CBHC offices began providing “a full array” of CBHC services on Jan. 3 and that all of its sites are fully staffed following a significant increase in numbers that doubled the number of clinicians from 100 to 200.

“We continue to hire for expanded capacity in all locations based on continued demand for services,” Jeffers said.

She feels that “improved access and a wider availability in terms of ‘menu’ services” will help those seeking mental health services and those in mental health crisis.
“Our hope is that individuals who need any type of behavioral health support can just come in and ask for help when they are ready,” Jeffers said. “Individuals should not need to worry about the ‘what’ to ask for. Our team will support, assess, and work individually with each person in need to provide a responsive, trauma-informed, and individualized plan to support their needs.”

She added that the range of services include individual and family therapy, group therapy, recovery support, psychiatry/medication management, care coordination, and referral to other wraparound services.

She cautioned that the improvements and updates could take some time, especially as staffing shortages remain an issue across the healthcare field, leading to long waits in emergency rooms and long waits for mental health services in general.

Jeffers said government reimbursement will be higher and salaries for clinicians could go up more than 40 percent through the new program, bringing the average starting salary to $65,000 or $75,000 per year. She expects the increase may draw more people into the high demand mental health field.

“The newly designed CBHC’s are important in moving towards an integrated system of behavioral and medical health care, both by the redesign of service — expanding the definition of community behavioral health and urgent care — the focus on quality and outcomes, and by investing significant dollars into the workforce to support the model,” she noted.

She added although it is early in the rollout of the new roadmap, she is encouraged by the investment in and commitment to the community behavioral health system in Massachusetts by the Baker administration and hopeful that the Healy administration will continue “the long overdue investments.”

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