By Robert J. Budsock, CEO of Integrity House
Every recent President’s State of the Union address has looked much like a partisan left vs. right catfight, where one side of the audience periodically rises to thunderously applaud while the other sits grimly on their hands. And for much of President Biden’s address, this familiar scenario played out as if it were choreographed in advance.
That is until he got toward the end of his speech when something visibly changed. As the President proposed what he called his 4-part “Unity Agenda for the Nation,” the partisan rancor visibly subsided. With few exceptions, the mood of Congress seemed to shift – almost imperceptibly at first, and then demonstrably. And for good reason; the four broad goals that comprised the President’s Unity Agenda are all foundational, human-focused aspirations that virtually every American can get behind. They include beating the opioid epidemic, improving mental health, aiding veterans, and cutting the national cancer death rate by at least 50 percent over the next 25 years – all equally ambitious goals.
Fortunately, we already have a proven, successful model in place that touches each of these ambitious, inspiring targets. It’s called the Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic (CCBHC), but in truth, CCBHCs do far more than the words in their name would simply suggest.
First pioneered in New Jersey and seven other states in 2017, and later rolled out nationally, the success of the CCBHC model has been nothing less than astounding. And CCBHCs continue to achieve demonstrable results, saving lives impacting families, and improving overall community health, in a cost-effective, financially sustainable manner.
Since May of 2020, Integrity House has been operating a CCBHC on our Newark campus. In that time, we’ve provided over 500 people annually with access to a greater variety of critical services including 24/7 crisis intervention, outpatient mental health services, and traditional physical healthcare for individuals with serious mental illness (SMI) or substance use disorders (SUD), especially opioid use disorders; children and adolescents with serious emotional disturbance (SED); and individuals, including veterans, with co-occurring mental and substance disorders (COD).
Our success and the success of the other 14 CCBHCs that operate in New Jersey in helping individuals and families has been tremendous in the truest sense of that word, providing care, and identifying people in need of SMI or SUD care, resulting in a coordinated plan for individuals connected with the services they desperately need.
CCBHCs are changing the way mental health and SUD care is delivered. They are successfully connecting people to treatment and care and reducing wait times. Each individual presenting at our CCBHC receives a comprehensive biopsychosocial assessment, followed by an individual assessment and patient-centered treatment planning. Unlike the fragmented care that has been the norm in the past that often forced individuals to navigate through multiple providers and agencies on their own, with little if any guidance, the care delivered through the CCBHC is both comprehensive and coordinated.
For military veterans, a key pillar in the President’s Unity Agenda, our CCBHC coordinates with the Veterans Administration, backstopping their services and ensuring that individuals receive the benefits and care that we owe to them and that so many of them desperately require.
Without a doubt, achieving the President’s Unity Agenda would be a game-changer for America. It is big and ambitious, for sure. But it is the kind of bold challenge that America has accepted in the past. And significantly, it is a battle in which we already have a decided advantage in the CCBHC model.
Here’s what we know from our experience: CCBHCs work. They work well. Every day we see the positive, often life-saving impact that CCBHCs have on individuals, families, children, and military veterans. And the care delivered by CCBHSs is both cost-effective and financially sustainable.
Protecting and enhancing funding for CCBHCs and increasing their numbers – especially in underserved and economically disadvantaged communities – can and should be an essential first step in addressing and ultimately achieving President Biden’s four bi-partisan goals in his Unity Agenda.