Help Save Our CCBHC Services

PA must take advantage of federal money for behavioral health care

By Courtney Reed

George was living on the street, struggling with addiction, and regularly in and out of the hospital. But today, with support from Lower Merion Counseling & Mobile Services (LMCMS) in Bryan Mawr, George is in stable housing, finally learned to read, and is pursuing his GED.

The services that helped change George’s life are made possible because LMCMS is a Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic (CCBHC), which allowed us to expand access to essential services for people in mental health recovery. But now thousands of people like George are at risk of losing those services, placing people’s recovery in jeopardy and doing catastrophic harm to Pennsylvania’s most vulnerable citizens.

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Governor Wolf and the Pennsylvania State Administration are not fully taking advantage of federal dollars currently available to reimburse mental health providers across the state. By simply drawing down federal funding already set aside to provide care for people living with mental health challenges and people in addiction recovery, the state administration can reimburse Pennsylvania providers for important care and services delivered to individuals in our community.

If the governor and the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services do not accept this federal funding, LMCMS and other CCBHC providers will have no choice but to cut services, eliminate the jobs that went toward providing them, and leave thousands of people without life-saving behavioral health care services.

LMCMS is a program of national human services nonprofit Resources for Human Development. In 2017 RHD was among the first organizations in the nation to participate in a new program aimed at improving behavioral health services through the CCBHC model.

CCBHC funding was given to only eight states, and RHD’s LMCMS program was awarded funding for the groundbreaking demonstration program. LMCMS is a community-based outpatient mental health treatment center where psychiatrists, therapists, case managers, and certified peer specialists provide comprehensive mental health and drug and alcohol services to individuals, families, and groups.

Last year alone, LMCMS was able to expand services to 724 new patients, and now serves more than 600 people each month. We have consistently kept wait times from inquiry to initial appointment at seven days or less, with 93 percent of referrals contacted within two business days. Of the new patients receiving services at LMCMS, 62 percent reported significant improvement in their mental health.

Perhaps most significantly, LMCMS was able to open our Child & Family Center, serving children, adolescents, and families with holistic and compassionate behavioral health treatment in a safe and engaging environment. Each year more than 100 children and adolescents receive specialized care at LMCMS. These services are entirely due to the CCBHC model, and will be at risk if Pennsylvania does not accept federal CCBHC funding.

“My daughter started showing a significant amount of stress at school,” said Alyssa, whose daughter Roxy receives services at LMCMS. “The services at LMCMS have been great. My daughter finds the experience so valuable that she’s signed up for an additional group. This school year, she is having an easier time and feeling less overwhelmed. As a parent, I’m so happy that my daughter has this kind of help.”

If these services are cut, the people who benefited from them do not simply disappear. Fewer services will result in greater use of emergency rooms and area hospitals, and greater rates of incarceration and homelessness. This will, in the long run, cost Pennsylvania taxpayers far more – and deliver far worse outcomes for people in need.

“I had hit rock bottom in my life,” said George. “The support I receive at LMCMS helps me to keep going. If it wasn’t for them, I think I would still be living on the street. I have someone to help me through my challenges. I feel better than I have felt in a long time.”

LMCMS urges Gov. Wolf to pull down the available federal funds for Pennsylvania’s CCBHCs, so that George and thousands of others like him have access to the services they need to live their most successful and productive lives.

Courtney Reed is the director of RHD Lower Merion Counseling & Mobile Services