When it comes to behavioral health, which is hugely important in the current era of the opioid crisis and the renewed—and much needed—focus on expanded access to care, Hall Render knows the territory. For example, a few of our more recent behavioral health articles covered updated guidance issued by SAMHSA (those articles can be found here and here), as well as The Joint Commission’s updated suicide prevention protocols.

Plainly put, Hall Render’s depth and breadth of experience in the behavioral health space enable us to help our clients capably and efficiently navigate this complex area of the health care industry.

Money Makes the World Go ‘Round

On the topic of expanded access to behavioral health care, federal funding is vitally important. Toward that end, there is overwhelming bipartisan support in Congress for a critical Medicaid pilot program—the Certified Community Behavioral Health Center demonstration program (“CCBHC” for short)—that currently provides much-needed mental health and addiction services to hundreds of thousands of people in eight states. In theory, then, it should be relatively easy to pass legislation funding and stabilizing such a program.

Part 1 of this article provides an overview of the CCHBC program. Next week, in Part 2 of this article, we’ll describe what the future may hold for CCBHCs from a federal funding perspective.

The CCBHC Program—an Overview

Created by the Excellence in Mental Health Act of 2014, the CCBHC initiative launched a new, multidisciplinary model for the delivery of community-based mental health and addiction treatment. CCBHC provides enhanced Medicaid funding to approximately 78 clinics across eight states with a focus on integrating mental health and addiction treatment into primary care.

Since launching in 2017, CCBHCs have been crucial in increasing access to comprehensive, community-based mental health and addiction treatment. Moreover, CCBHCs, by reducing patient wait times, expanding access to medication-assisted treatment and offering specialized staff trained in addiction treatment, play a key role in responding to the opioid crisis. Advocates are concerned that progress in the vital areas of mental health and addiction will be undermined if funding does not continue.

Funding the CCBHC Program—a Roller Coaster of a Ride

As noted above, legislation to fund a program that provides much-needed mental health and addiction services to hundreds of thousands of people across multiple states in the midst of the opioid epidemic should, in theory, sail smoothly through Congress, right?

Not quite. The reality of the funding situation points to a different conclusion. Providing a steady funding stream for the pilot program has been a roller coaster ride: the CCBHC initiative has weathered three short-term funding extensions and a halted long-term measure, the latter of which came on the heels of a funding lapse.

This funding uncertainty puts CCBHCs in a tough position. According to the National Council for Behavioral Health, if federal funding lapses, then the financial cut-off would mean that nearly 3,000 staff at 67 CCBHCs would potentially lose their jobs, and more than 9,000 patients receiving medication-assisted treatment for substance abuse would lose access to treatment.

Without question, the stakes are high. Congress seems to recognize as much. Next week, in Part 2 of this article, we describe what the future may hold for the CCBHC pilot program from a federal funding perspective, including—spoiler alert—a stopgap funding bill recently introduced in the House, which would extend funding through November 21.