Opinion: Community Behavioral Health Association marks 20 years
Organization has long followed a mission to aid those with mental disorders and addiction challenges
This year, the NH Community Behavioral Health Association will mark its 20th anniversary.
CBHA was established because there was no other statewide organization in New Hampshire in 2002 with both a mission and a vision that aligned with the unique needs of those with mental disorders and addiction challenges. Since then, CBHA has strived to ensure the sustainability of high-quality behavioral health care for the citizens of our state, through its steadfast leadership, advocacy and collaboration with mental health and healthcare partners.
It has been through the persistence of CBHA’s advocacy and work with the Legislature and governor that funding for critical mental health services has been secured in every state budget cycle. This consistency of funding has meant that between 40,000 and 50,000 adults and children are served annually by the 10 community mental health centers that make up CBHA’s membership.
Most recently, CBHA has focused on lessening the impact of the pandemic on the mental health of individuals, families and entire communities throughout our state. Unlike many other businesses and organizations that were forced to close their doors during the pandemic, CBHA’s 10 mental health center members were able to remain open for business, rapidly utilizing the best tech solutions available for telehealth. Combined video and audio availability options ensured no cessation of service delivery for over two years — a huge success that the centers and their dedicated staff can be proud of.
Over the last two decades, CBHA has worked to ensure that priority is given to the growing need and demand for services, especially at the community level. With commitment to provide the highest and most progressive quality of care, CBHA and its members embraced early on several nationally recognized evidence-based practices such as illness, management and recovery, supportive employment and InShape, among others.
CBHA has also collaborated with the Legislature and the executive branch toward the goal of Medicaid payment reform. This resulted in the creation and implementation of one of the best payment models (capitation) between community mental health centers and managed care organizations in the nation.
CBHA and our centers have also worked with policymakers on legislation addressing key issues impacting our clients and communities. These bills have included limiting the use of restraints when transporting clients in a psychiatric crisis to New Hampshire Hospital or another designated receiving facility; prior authorizations for mental health services; establishing protocols for involuntary hospitalization; suicide prevention and extreme risk protection orders; and requiring private insurers to pay for community-based services typically provided to Medicaid enrollees.
CBHA has also been a leader in proactive planning for solutions to the healthcare workforce shortage; developing innovative access to care models; and adopting improved quality of clinical care, which includes nationally recognized metrics. We have worked with a large stakeholder group for over five years on long- and short-term fixes to the workforce problem, including investments in the state loan repayment program; increased use of telehealth; and addressing administrative burdens imposed on providers by state laws and regulations.
Over the years, CBHA has increasingly invested resources into communication with the public regarding stigma and the importance of mental health awareness and education. Collaboration and partnership with other organizations that share our philosophy and policy positions — including NAMI-NH, the NH Hospital Association, New Futures, the Disability Rights Center and others — has been critical to our success both at the state house and in the public eye.
Vic Topo of Londonderry is president and CEO of the Center for Life Management in Derry.