High Plains receives CCBHC status; plans to enhance regional services

High Plains Mental Health Center
High Plains Mental Health Center

High Plains Mental Health Center announced Friday it has received funding to implement Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic (CCBHC) services. A $2 million, two-year grant from the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) will enable HPMHC to significantly expand regional access to behavioral health and substance use disorder services.

“This is great news for Northwest Kansas. Our communities have been telling us they see a need for additional mental health and substance use treatment and resource options, and this funding and enhanced program status will enable us to fill some of the existing rural service gaps,” said Walt Hill, executive director of HPMHC. “This also comes at an ideal time, as we know the Covid-19 pandemic already has and will continue to increase mental health concerns.”

The CCBHC grant project will include several key program areas, which will be implemented within four months of the award. Significant goals will be to provide enhanced and more rapid access to services for clients who need to enter services and reach out for initial assessment. HPMHC will contract with two additional qualified mental health professionals who will assist with screening and referral via telemedicine. We will also hire two client care coordinators/navigators, who will assist new clients entering services and also help coordinate care for established clients.

HPMHC also will significantly expand its existing treatment program for clients with Substance Use Disorders. We will contract with a telemedicine psychiatrist to provide Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) for clients in recovery who could benefit from prescribed medication in addition to therapy. MAT is primarily used to treat those in recovery from addiction to certain opioids, such as heroin or prescribed pain pills. The prescribed medication operates to normalize brain chemistry, block the euphoric effects of the opioids, relieve physical cravings and normalize body functions. HPMHC will also hire two additional SUD counselors and a peer recovery coach to further expand recovery services. Mental illness often co-occurs with substance use disorders; expanded SUD services will equip HPMHC staff to further integrate care and specialize treatment based on each client’s needs.

We will also increase our integrated physical health care efforts by placing two additional outpatient therapists at integrated care locations, such as regional hospitals or primary healthcare clinics. We will also expand an existing “health home” service program for clients with Serious Mental Illness and increase screening for high-risk illnesses, such as HIV, hepatitis and tuberculosis. HPMHC staff will work with regional healthcare providers to make referrals for those needing primary services.

The CCBHC implementation project will also create an Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) outreach team, an evidence-based intensive and integrated approach to community mental health services. This team will provide outreach services in the community and will include one registered nurse, two case managers, a peer support specialist and an additional qualified mental health professional. This team will work within the community to help stabilize individuals experiencing mental health crises in efforts to help the individual access services and deter hospitalization. While this innovative program will initially be launched in Hays (the region’s most populous city), HPMHC hopes to eventually expand this service and provide enhanced crisis response services throughout the region, either by telemedicine or on-site.

There also will be an enhanced focus on public outreach and education, with emphasis placed on high-risk and underserved populations, including military veterans, regional farm/agriculture workers and Hispanic/Latino populations. An additional Mental Health First Aid instructor will be added to HPMHC’s existing staff team of three trainers. Additional professional development training will be made available to HPMHC staff, including trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy. An advisory work group will be established to provide input and guidance regarding CCBHC implementation. This group will include clients with lived experience or their loved ones/support persons and county stakeholders. Applications are being accepted for the CCBHC work group. For more information, or to see the career opportunities created by this project, visit hpmhc.com.

The CCBHC model of care was approved in the state of Kansas this spring, making Kansas the first state to pass legislation identifying this model as a solution to the current mental health and substance use crisis. The CCBHC model, however, is not new – the U.S. currently has 340 CCBHCs operating in 40 states. Several other Community Mental Health Centers in Kansas already have received or are working toward CCBHC status. CCBHCs are designed to address suicide prevention, overdose deaths, barriers to timely treatment access, inadequate care for veterans and active military, and to reduce existing burdens on jails and hospital emergency departments.