Clinical and Support Options: A front door to open access care

By Phyllis Hanlon
October 2nd, 2021

In 1955, 22 citizens formed the Franklin County Mental Health Association to address the mental health needs of people, particularly children, living in the western part of the state. Today, the organization is known as Clinical and Support Options (CSO) and offers much broader services to children and families in Western Massachusetts and the North Quabbin region of Massachusetts.

According to Geoffrey Oldmixon, associate vice president of marketing and development, CSO provides “one door” open access to clients and accommodates same-day, walk-in visits for outpatients and crisis services.

CSO operates six fully licensed mental health clinics in Athol, Gardner, Greenfield, Northampton, Pittsfield, and Springfield and serves 1,900 individuals and families, the vast majority of whom are low income and subsist on Medicare/Medicaid.

CSO also operates the largest homeless shelter as well as other programs and resources, according to Oldmixon.

CSO employs 750 individuals that include psychiatrists, psychologists, registered nurses, mental health workers, social workers, and licensed mental health and family therapists.

Oldmixon explained that CSO takes a holistic approach, handling baseline medical needs and embodying a one-stop model that coordinates care for its clients. For instance, when an individual comes to CSO, the staff conducts an intake and helps triage the client.

“We provide integrated services and care coordination with the primary care doctor from an outside agency,” he said.

As an example, if a woman comes in and needs help and therapy, a service manager will talk with her to obtain background information. She might report that her husband gets physical with her, particularly when he drinks. Her children might be skipping school and the family may not have enough money to buy food and pay rent.

Oldmixon reports that CSO’s family resource center can take care of some of those problems by helping the woman look for work and providing food. CSO’s substance use disorder program can help her husband with his drinking problem and its Center for Community Resilience After Trauma (CCRT) can provide general assistance.

“We have all the resources available to take care of these problems,” he said.

The organization is unique in that it received a Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic (CCBHC) grant, which enables CSO to implement a wellness program and nursing. “This is a popular model that is likely to become more widespread,” Oldmixon said.

Oldmixon pointed out that behavioral health challenges are not going away any time soon, particularly as COVID-19 and the Delta variant continue to spread across the country. Opioid deaths, particularly in western Massachusetts, are sky high, he added.

The housing market is causing stress as families look for affordable living arrangements. Unemployment poses another challenge; individuals who do have a job do not feel safe in the workplace and families, especially women, have difficulty juggling childcare responsibilities. “All these issues relate to mental health,” he said.

However, Oldmixon expressed hope for the future. “We are at a turning point where the world seems to be re-evaluating behavioral health,” he said. Behavioral and physical health are being integrated as authorities recognize that one affects the other, according to Oldmixon. Better services are now being integrated to create healthier lives.

In fact, Oldmixon reported that the state has initiated a Roadmap to Behavioral Health Reform, which aims to ensure that individuals receive the right treatment when and where they need it. The idea is to create a “front door” to treatment with centralized services that connect individuals to mental health and/or addiction treatment with a call or text.

Oldmixon said that the program is a “multi-year blueprint intended to expand access to more effective treatment and improved health equity.” He added that the program will connect individuals before there is a mental health emergency to allow individuals and families to fully access a range of comprehensive services in the state.

According to Oldmixon, CSO can serve as an example for the Roadmap to Behavioral Health Reform program. “We have redesigned the behavioral health model in Massachusetts and hope that individuals will be brought closer to an equitable level.”

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