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How to Find Success as a Certified Community Behavioral Health Center 

How to Find Success as a Certified Community Behavioral Health Center 

Certified Community Behavioral Health Centers (CCBHC) are specially designated clinics offering comprehensive services to treat mental health and substance use disorders. Organizations must apply for designation and adhere to extensive CCBHC certification criteria, ultimately allowing them to focus on target populations, increase access to care, and offer a broader range of services.

In a webinar hosted by Iris Telehealth, leaders from Pines Behavioral Health, HealthRIGHT 360, and Deschutes County Mental Health came together to discuss their journeys to gaining CCBHC certification, their advice on the certification process, and insights into virtual care.

In this blog, we’ll review insights from these organizations on the challenges and benefits of becoming a CCBHC and learn how they’ve found success.

First steps and goals when considering CCBHC certification

Deciding to become a CCBHC comes with many considerations, and knowing the first steps and getting clear on goals can be helpful to the process. For example, at HealthRIGHT 360, they applied via SAMHSA’s CCBHC expansion grant opportunity.

When reflecting on their goal for gaining CCBHC certification, Melissa Espinoza, the CCBHC Program Director at HealthRIGHT 360, said, “We wanted to enhance our longstanding outpatient behavioral health programs in LA County and potentially to replicate this throughout other sites within the agency and organization.”

For Chandra Mola, the Medical Team Manager at Deschutes County Mental Health, their goal was to create a more integrated, whole-person approach to care and extend outreach into their rural communities.

On their certification, Mola said, “We were certified in 2017. We had a small integrated primary care office and had kind of a one-stop shop and saw the benefits of having that whole-person care collaboration and improvements with overall health. One of the driving pieces was being able to expand to our more rural locations and offer that at all of our sites. Then the second piece was just a plan to diversify our funding.”

Whether you want to enhance your existing behavioral health services or reach more people in your community, CCBHC certification can help support your efforts. While it’s essential to get clear on your goals, it’s also important to consider any potential challenges and the right strategies you might need to meet these head-on.

Potential challenges and strategies to CCBHC certification

Gaining designation can be rigorous, and there can be a lot of CCBHC criteria to consider when preparing your organization for the process.

Here are a few challenges CCBHCs encountered when first getting started:

  • Administrative challenges: At Deschutes County Mental Health, Mola said, “SAMHSA grants are daunting. They’re big. It’s certainly just being able to deal with the administrative burden it puts on every aspect of our departments. The opening up to broader groups of people offered it to people who had private health insurance. Things like just setting up the billing departments to be able to bill for all of that.”
  • Staff turnover: For HealthRIGHT 360, Espinoza said they struggled to get their team on board and encountered staffing challenges. “There were a lot of long-term staff that felt they didn’t wanna be a part of this, it was too much extra. And so staffing was a struggle that we had to overcome.” Today, HealthRIGHT 360 is stabilizing and has learned a lot from its first round of funding. Espinoza said the organization worked hard to re-obtain churned staff and obtain new staff by enhancing and strengthening their benefits packages.
  • Increased demand: For Pines Behavioral Health, Sue Germann, Chief Executive Officer, highlighted that it wasn’t the certification process that proved challenging, but the demand for services, which increased by 36% after their designation, citing, “Every service we provided had a greater need – including psychiatric. We connected with Iris right away with a virtual psychiatrist, which was invaluable.”

While these are certainly challenging, there are many benefits as well. Let’s take a look at the positive outcomes these organizations have encountered since their designation.

The benefits of CCBHC certification

While the upfront designation process may be tedious, according to our partners, the benefits of CCBHC certification are all worth it. At Pines Behavioral Health, Germann said their team was finally able to meet the wants of their community that aren’t necessarily Medicaid allowable.

After gaining designation, they were able to get more creative with what they offered. Speaking about the benefits of their designation, Germann said, “We created a health and wellness program where you didn’t have to come in and have an assessment and a treatment plan before you could have the service. You could come in and learn how physical health impacts mental health.”

She also mentioned the help they received with their 24/7 crisis team, noting, “We went from scheduling intakes to same-day access. We really made sure that we had enough staff to be able to meet that need. That helped us in terms of being able to meet the measures related to how quickly you needed to see someone.”

At HealthRIGHT 360, Espinoza and her team value the ability to help more people in their community and the flexibility the grant has given them.

Espinoza shares, “It has allowed us to assess and address the needs of our population in ways that we were not able to before. One of the initial CCBHC requirements is a community needs assessment. So, instead of taking long-established services and fitting clients into those boxes, we can really survey and obtain feedback from clients about their individual needs through their experiences and feedback. So that has been really important.”

At Deschutes County Mental Health, Mola pointed out the positive outcomes they’ve experienced, noting, “The benefits have been overall improved health outcomes. We’ve seen decreases in blood pressure, we’ve seen better managed A1C. BMI is still a tricky one, but we have seen a little bit of improvement there. So that whole-person care has driven us to decide to adopt this model permanently.”

The integration of the CCBHC model and virtual care

CCBHCs can benefit significantly from a strategic virtual behavioral health partnership. Through high-quality support, evidence-based care, and a team of highly qualified behavioral health providers, this partnership is one of the keys to finding success as a CCBHC.

Want to learn more about how the right telehealth partner can help support your CCBHC’s approach to evidence-based care? Check out our blog, How Telehealth Can Support CCBHC Quality Measures through Evidence-Based Care.

Reflecting on their organization’s approach to virtual care and partnership with Iris Telehealth, Espinoza said, “Virtual care has not gone away. That is a part of our long-term strategy. We do know some clients prefer and benefit from in-person services, but there are also clients who really do value the flexibility in their schedules to be able to participate in treatment through that platform as well.

Currently, in our CCBHC, we are offering a hybrid model of service delivery for our staff. It allows them the flexibility, and it allows the client’s flexibility to continue with treatment through our agency.”

For Deschutes County Mental Health, Chandra Mola says telehealth has been crucial to them during the provider shortage, stating, “Due to staffing shortages of psychiatrists and psych NPs, telehealth has been really important for us to have that balance. But even beyond that, as we’ve been able to hire more psychiatrists these last few years, it’s been a good thing to have a balance of in-person and telehealth. Particularly in our rural areas, because oftentimes they don’t have the means to get to clinics.”

Mola also noted how specific quality measures have improved at Deschutes, “We’ve noticed that our no-show rates improve when we have this option available. Ultimately our folks are getting service that is accessible to them and means that we can serve more people and do a better job.”

We want to thank the incredible leaders from Pines Behavioral Health, HealthRIGHT 360, and Deschutes County Mental Health for taking the time to share their valuable insights. We couldn’t be more proud to partner with you and work together to create a better world through healthy minds. Click here to watch the full webinar.

If you’d like to learn more about how Iris Telehealth can help assist your organization throughout the certification and beyond, contact us today!

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