Behavioral health crisis response

Last year the Washington County Behavioral Health Board began planning enhanced or new services that address our mental health and addiction crisis and fill gaps in our community-based continuum of care, as required by law. Funding for added services is coming from the Mental Health Levy, increased federal and state appropriations, and new grants.

The continuum of care includes prevention and wellness management; outreach and engagement; assessment; care coordination; outpatient, inpatient, and residential treatment; recovery supports; addiction services and recovery supports for opioid and co-occurring drug addiction; protecting rights of persons receiving care; and ensuring they can use grievance procedures.

The Behavioral Health Board is committed to promoting behavioral health and wellness, prevention, early intervention, treatment, and recovery; creating and leading an integrated network of providers that promotes universal access to comprehensive, evidence-based services; and advocating and leading alignment of behavioral health-related resources, programs, and policy.

In January the Behavioral Health Board requested proposals by qualified organizations to provide mental health or addiction services for children, adolescents, or adults. It expressed special interest in proposals for prevention and wellness management that, if successful, will obviate the need for treatment and recovery. It also expressed special interest in ensuring high quality, culturally and linguistically competent care responsive to diverse needs of vulnerable populations. Because proposals received to date do not cover all essential elements of the continuum of care, the board is continuing to solicit proposals from qualified sources.

The board is funding enhanced or new behavioral health-related programs of county agencies and other qualified providers, including:

Trauma Informed Schools-a partnership among all six public school districts in Washington County, Ohio Valley Educational Service Center, Washington-Morgan Community Action Head Start, and Life and Purpose Behavioral Health. This fall school-based prevention, assessment, and treatment services will be provided for children and adolescents at risk for mental illness or substance use disorders at all educational levels from pre-school through grade 12. Typically, these are students struggling with multiple adverse life events, such as abuse, neglect, domestic violence, alcohol or drug abuse in the family, or other traumas that affect their ability to learn and maintain themselves in the classroom.

Health Department-PAX Good Behavior Game in county schools for prevention and increased academic achievement.

Family and Children First Council-Incredible Years Preschool Parenting Program for children ages 3-6 and Strengthening Families Parenting Program for children ages 10-14.

Children Services-kinship care program to enable children removed from their homes due to mental illness or substance abuse in the family to be placed with relatives rather than in foster care that is more disruptive and expensive.

EVE-grant to supplement Job and Family Services funding for its Supervised Visitation and Safe Exchange Center. The center provides supervised visitation for parents who are too dangerous or unstable to have time alone with their children and safe exchanges for parents who can have unsupervised visitations, but for whom there is too much anger or violence when the parents are together. This grant will enable serving more families struggling with addiction, drug or alcohol abuse, or mental illness.

GiveMore Connections-Social Skills Camp Connect 2018, the first of many therapeutic summer camps envisioned for the Mid-Ohio Valley. The camp will encourage social growth, independence, and self-esteem for typical youth and those with psychological or developmental disorders in an integrated setting to enable peer support and influence. It will teach communication, cooperation, coping, connecting, and compliance.

Suicide Awareness Alliance-annual budget and two programs. Local Outreach to Suicide Survivors (LOSS) is provided by survivors of suicide loss and mental health professionals with specialized training. LOSS is activated by first responders to the scene of a suicide. This allows them to attend to investigative duties while LOSS attends to needs of survivors. LOSS is available 24×7 and follows national guidelines. Helping Other People Endure (HOPE) is a support group for those who have lost someone to suicide.

For addiction treatment and recovery, the board has contracted with Hopewell Health Centers for medication assisted treatment and in-home family therapy for county residents. Facilities for sub-acute detoxification, residential treatment, inpatient treatment, outpatient treatment, and recovery housing are also being planned.

While progress is being made filling gaps in our community-based continuum of care, more is needed. Staff is collaborating with local courts, law enforcement, fire and emergency medical services, hospitals, colleges, businesses, agencies, and providers to develop a more comprehensive response to our behavioral health crisis. Ideas being discussed include specialized court programs, rapid overdose response team, ambulatory detoxification, mental health and addiction counseling in jails, and child day treatment.

James L. Raney is co-chair of the Program Planning and Oversight Committee of the Washington County Behavioral Health Board. Behavioral Health Matters appears on the Opinion Page the first weekend of each month.

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