• NatCon20 Cancellation


    Dear National Council Members,

    It is with a heavy heart,  I am notifying you first that we have cancelled NatCon20.

    This is incredibly disappointing, but the City of Austin and Travis County, Texas have decided that we are legally prohibited from holding NatCon20. Specifically, they issued a ban on all events that would include more than 250 people, so The Austin Convention Center has officially cancelled NatCon20. The ban on public or private gatherings, part of orders adopted by Austin Mayor Steve Adler and Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt, takes effect 2 a.m. CT Sunday, March 15, and will continue until at least May 1, 2020.

    This unprecedented step to cancel our conference is driven by a global public health crisis that is entirely out of our control. So, while we are saddened that we must cancel NatCon20, we realize this is the only possible course of action. This is about much more than our conference. This is about limiting the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). We must respect the decisions and legal mandates of local and federal health officials.

    And we acknowledge that we have a unique social responsibility. We simply will not do anything to put you in harm’s way. We value all our corporate partners, which are an important part of the National Council. We will not put our staff members in harm’s way. The health and welfare of our members and employees remain a top priority.

    For those who were frustrated with the timing of this decision, please understand that we had to be very deliberate and await the decisions of those with the authority to approve or cancel our conference. I deeply appreciate the patience all of you exhibited while we waited for the City of Austin to complete its due diligence, and please understand that we have been as transparent as possible.

    Now that city officials have made their decision, we can move forward with answering your questions.

    We are a membership organization and we have your back. Whether you are a registrant or an exhibitor, to request a refund, please fill out our NATCON20 Registration Cancellation Request Form.

    All attendees are receiving a cancellation notification today. We would appreciate any help you can provide in letting people know NatCon20 was canceled by The Austin Convention Center and directing them to our website.

    You are responsible for cancelling both your airline and hotel reservations. Please make sure to reach out directly to your hotel to cancel your upcoming reservation. You can also search the list of hotels here.

    In addition, you’ll need to reach out to your airline directly to cancel your flight; each airline’s policies for how they are dealing with reservations, cancellations, change fees, and the like in the wake of COVID-19 are different, but most are reportedly being very cooperative and helpful.

    We have already started planning for NatCon21 in Denver, and I hope to see you there.

    The entire leadership team remains fully committed, to ensure we do what’s best for you and provider communities across the country, today and always. Because of the work we do every day, we have an important role to play and we’ll be looking for ways to support the entire behavioral health community in the weeks and months to come, as we navigate the implications from this virus. 


    Chuck Ingoglia

    President and CEO

    National Council for Behavioral Health



    NatCon20 is coming up fast – we can't wait to see you in Austin!

    This year, the National Council is introducing a new and exciting track: "Innovations at Work." Through this track, we will be showcasing members pushing the boundaries and adopting innovative approaches to solve some of behavioral health's greatest challenges.

    Is your organization doing innovative work to improve care delivery, increase collaboration across the continuum of care, or streamline processes across operations?

    If so, we want to hear from you! Providers interested in sharing their experiences should send a brief summary of their innovation and results (even if preliminary) to Samantha Holcombe, Senior Director of Practice Improvement.

  • Introducing Our New Special Interest Groups

    Looking to expand your behavioral health care perspective? Our Special Interest Groups are designed to accelerate your learning of – and impact on – historically marginalized populations. Throughout 2020, we will focus on the following groups: older adults, LGBTQ+, children and families, and individuals with intellectual and developmental disorders. Join us for a series of orientation webinars that will set expectations for each group:

  • Call for Content: Recovery-Related Stories for September

    In recognition of National Recovery Month, we will be highlighting the importance of recovery throughout the month—from social media to our newsletters and blog. Have an inspirational or educational story about recovery you’d like to share? Let us know, and we will consider it for publication in one or several of our publications.
  • Learn, Grow and Network at Free Technology Summit

    Eager to improve outcomes of addiction care? Join us for a free learning experience in Washington, D.C., on September 16—the day before Hill Day 2019—as we examine the technologies that are transforming the behavioral health care field. Our National Summit: Leveraging Technology to Improve Access to Addiction Care will teach you how to maximize technology to boost your practice. Register today!

  • August 5-9: Youth Mental Health First Aid Training Opportunity

    Mental Health First Aid and the National Council are hosting a Youth MHFA Instructor Training in Salt Late City, Utah, from August 5-9. This is a great opportunity for members to get internal employees certified to train others in Youth MHFA. Member discounts are available. Learn more!

  • National Council for Behavioral Health Announces New Board Members and Officers

    National Council for Behavioral Health Announces New Board Members and Officers

    WASHINGTON, D.C. (July 1, 2019) – The National Council for Behavioral Health is pleased to announce the results of its recent Board election.

    The National Council welcomes the newly elected directors:

    • Heather Jefferis, Oregon Council for Behavioral Health: Region 10 (AK, ID, OR, WA)
    • Doyle Forrestal, Colorado Behavioral Healthcare Council: Chair of the Association Executives Committee

    The following directors were re-elected by the membership for a second term:

    • Linda McKinnon, Central Florida Behavioral Health Network: Region 4 (AL, NC, SC, FL, GA, KY, MS, TN)
    • Mark Ishaug, Thresholds: Region 5 (IL, IN, MI, MN, OH, WI)
    • Pat Coleman, Behavioral Health Response: Region 7 (IA, KS, MO, NB)
    • Vitka Eisen, HealthRIGHT360: Region 9 (CA, Guam, HI, NV)

    The following Board officers will serve for the next two years:

    • Jeff Richardson, Sheppard Pratt Health System: Chair
    • Tim Swinfard, Compass Health: First Vice Chair
    • Victor Armstrong, Atrium Health: Second Vice Chair
    • Susie Huhn, Casa de los Niños: Secretary-Treasurer

    The Board is composed of elected volunteers from the staff and community boards of National Council member organizations. They are elected by National Council member organizations representing 10 regions covering the entire U.S. The Board of Directors represents the membership and is committed to diversity, leadership and promoting excellence in mental health and addictions treatment.

    Board Chair Jeff Richardson, vice president and chief operating officer of Sheppard Pratt Health System, said, “The National Council is at the frontlines of behavioral health, driving the conversations surrounding life-changing mental health and addiction services and advocating on behalf of their more than 3,000 members. I am delighted to work with our talented and dedicated Board members as we continue to address our nation’s health care issues and work toward improving the lives of others.”

    We are grateful to the following individuals for their service, departing the National Council Board are:

    • Vicker (Vic) DiGravio, III, Association for Behavioral Healthcare (Massachusetts): Former President and Chief Executive Officer
    • Brent McGinty, Coalition for Community Behavioral Healthcare (Missouri): President and Chief Executive Officer
    • David Johnson, Navos (Burien, WA): Chief Executive Officer, Ed.D. and Licensed Mental Health Counselor

    “We are grateful for the service of our three outgoing Board members who have been instrumental in the incredible growth of the National Council as a force in changing the direction of behavioral health in this nation and securing its role as an integral participant in the health care system,” said Chuck Ingoglia, president and CEO of the National Council. “Their contributions can be measured, not only in political and social gains, but in the lives of millions of Americans who are living fuller and more productive lives because of increased access to needed health care services.”

    The newly elected Board members assume their duties on July 1, 2019.

    Sophia Majlessi
    (202) 621-1631

  • The Journal of Behavioral Health Services & Research: New Issue Released

    Learn and grow through the Journal of Behavioral Health Services & Research, a member benefit. What can you expect in July’s issue? Peer-written articles on treatment retention, vocational peer support and care management intervention, among other topics.
  • National Council Continues Push for Behavioral Health Telehealth Solutions

    The National Council has been a longtime advocate for changing federal regulations that restrict how behavioral health medications that are controlled substances can be prescribed via telemedicine. Recognizing the urgent need to expand access to medication-assisted treatment (MAT) and other behavioral health medications, the National Council worked closely with Members of Congress to secure a provision in the opioid legislative package (SUPPORT Act) that would address this problem. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) now has until October 1, 2019 to clarify when the agency can issue prescribers a special registration that would enable them to treat patients for the first time via telemedicine.


    Current regulations, established as the result of the Ryan Haight Act, prohibit the prescribing of controlled substances over the internet with narrow exceptions for telemedicine. In practice, meeting these exceptions typically requires that a patient being treated via telemedicine be physically located in a facility registered through the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in order to receive a prescription for a controlled substance. These regulations stand as a barrier for many mental health and addiction treatment clinics as they may not meet the narrow requirements for registration with the DEA in all states. Thus, this leaves clinics unable to offer patients access to much-needed medications to treat certain mental illnesses and addictions via telemedicine.


    The National Council recently wrote a letter to the DEA urging the agency to act immediately to resolve medication access issues by using their existing regulatory authority or through the new special registration process mandated by the 2018 SUPPORT Act. While the SUPPORT Act’s special registration provision is a step in the right direction for allowing more providers to administer MAT via telemedicine, the final decision of which provider types will be included falls to the DEA and no draft guidance has yet been released. The National Council continues to work closely with the DEA on developing a registration pathway to be more inclusive of community mental health and addiction treatment providers across the country.

    Additionally, the National Council is aiming to bolster the actions already taken within the SUPPORT Act by reintroducing the Improving Access to Remote Behavioral Health Treatment Act of 2018. This bill, introduced in the last Congress by Representatives Gregg Harper (R-MS) and Doris Matsui (D-CA), would specifically name community mental health centers and addiction treatment centers as eligible sites to register with DEA to offer patients access to MAT and other medications via telemedicine. Although the DEA may choose to include these sites under the provisions included in the SUPPORT Act, this bill would ensure their inclusion regardless of the DEA’s final regulations.

    Stephanie Pasternak, National Council for Behavioral Health
  • Urgent Care On Demand, Except This Time For Mental Health

    Urgent Care On Demand, Except This Time For Mental Health

    April 19, 2019
     by Martha Bebinger

    The sleepless nights and dull, meaningless days began last summer. In the late fall, Grace, who asks that we just use her middle name, stopped taking her medication for depression and anxiety. It wasn’t helping. By mid-winter, Grace says she often struggled to get through a day.

    “If I had to do it over again, I wouldn’t be here. If I weren’t born, I wouldn’t care, if you know what I mean,” says Grace, looking up at a physician she has just met.

    Dr. David Kroll, a psychiatrist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, nods. He continues an evaluation that includes deeply personal, sometimes painful questions. Has Grace thought about how she might kill herself? No, says Grace, just fleeting ideas. Has she thought about harming someone else? No.

    Grace has a regular psychiatrist, but even during one of her lowest periods, she couldn’t get an appointment to see that doctor right away.

    “A couple months ago I tried to book an appointment, and I was given a date in June,” Grace says with exasperation. “I’ve had it.”

    Kroll knows from experience why it's hard to squeeze patients in. Psychiatrists typically work alone rather than in teams that include a nurse practitioner and medical assistants. And the traditional approach is a thorough evaluation that builds toward a deep relationship.

    "But sometimes you just need a quick look to see if there's something that can be done in the moment that might get you back on track for your care," Kroll says.

    Long wait times for an appointment are one of the main reasons Kroll opened the unusual clinic where he sees Grace today. It offers walk-in visits with a psychiatrist one afternoon a week. There’s a social worker on staff to help arrange follow-up care. So far, the clinic is only open to patients whose primary doctor or specialist is affiliated with the Brigham.

    There are just a handful of clinics in Massachusetts where patients can get mental health care on demand and few examples around the country. Eight states are testing a free-standing community center model. Some hospitals are developing walk-in care for addiction during the opioid epidemic, which may include treatment for anxiety and depression. CVS and Walgreen's, two of the largest retail clinic networks, do not offer mental health care.

    A key obstacle is money. Danna Mauch, president and CEO of the Massachusetts Association for Mental Health, says having a psychiatrist available, waiting to see patients is expensive.

    "You can’t plan for the emergence of the urgent thing," says Mauch, "so people have to have staff there, whether somebody shows up at that day or that hour or not."

    Mauch is developing an urgent mental health care model for children. A recent report from the Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation of Massachusetts says the state and private insurers must find ways to fund walk-in mental health visits and a more robust network of urgent care centers because too many patients can't find adequate or timely care.

    Kroll says the early numbers show that psych urgent care will pay for itself at the Brigham because demand is so high. The hospital plans to expand the clinic from one to at least three afternoons a week by October.

    Leading patient advocacy groups say they are excited about this emerging option for mental health treatment. Teri Brister, the director of information and support at the National Alliance on Mental Illness, says mental health services should be available in urgent care clinics just like blood pressure or stress tests. Delays, says Brister, trigger emergency room visits, hospital stays that could have been avoided and sometimes time in jail.

    "The stress on the person and the stress on the family and the potential for symptoms worsening when treatment isn't received immediately only make things more difficult," Brister says.

    Lisa Lambert, director of the Parent Professional Advocacy League, says providing mental health care in a retail or urgent care clinic will remove some of the stigma patients feel in seeking treatment for depression or anxiety.

    "When mental health care looks more like primary care or regular medical care and less like behavioral health care, for some people that's going to make a difference," Lambert says.

    But there are potential pitfalls.

    During Grace's appointment, Kroll scans dozens of drugs Grace has tried over the years. Grace sees a counselor, attends some groups and exercises, but can’t seem to find a medication that helps.

    "I don’t necessarily remember what I felt like on them," Grace tells Kroll. "I guess I switched off them because they weren’t working, but I don’t remember why."

    Kroll can review Grace’s medical record because she’s a Brigham patient. But what if he didn’t know what medicine Grace had tried, or what pills she still had in the medicine cabinet?

    "I think it’s a setup for long term confusion and bad care with errors in it," says Dr. Joseph Parks, medical director at the National Council for Behavioral Health, representing 3,000 mental health and addiction treatment programs. Parks says coordinating care will have to be a priority as interest in urgent care psych clinics grows.

    At the Brigham, Kroll says urgent care won't work if patients need a medication that requires careful monitoring. He mentions lithium, which is commonly prescribed for biopolar disorder.

    Kroll prescribes two new medications for Grace, describes potential side effects, and tells her to follow up with her regular psychiatrist. Grace says she's relieved.

    "You’ve been so helpful I really, and very thorough, my goodness, for just seeing me on the quick," Grace tells Kroll as she leaves.

    The Brigham clinic is designed as a bridge between routine psychiatric visits, but Kroll acknowledges that on-demand care will appeal to many mental health patients.

    "That's been one of the big worries," Kroll says. "That's why we built this up gradually. We were worried that once you opened the flood gates, then it could become overwhelming very quickly. Most of the time that doesn't happen."

    Kroll says the clinic is busy some Wednesdays, but less so on others. The typical visit with a patient lasts from 20 to 60 minutes, which is longer than the average urgent care visit.

    The Brigham clinic sees a disproportionately large number of Medicaid patients. And it welcomes patients who've been kicked out of established psychiatry practices for repeatedly missing appointments. So called "no-shows" are common in mental health practices, says Karen Wrenn, a licensed social worker who manages the Brigham's urgent care psych clinic. It could be something as simple as navigating public transportation or finding parking. Some mental health conditions get in the way of seeking care.

    "With depression," says Wrenn, "folks will not be able to get out of bed. If you have more acute issues like psychosis, that's going to be a barrier."

    But less of a barrier, Wrenn says, if patients know they can walk-in and be seen, when they're ready.

    This segment aired on April 20, 2019.
  • California tests if addiction treatment can be incorporated into primary care - POLITICO - 4/5/19

    California tests if addiction treatment can be incorporated into primary care 



    04/05/2019 11:24 AM EDT

    PLACERVILLE, Calif. — California had just weeks to get a program that used medication to treat opioid use disorder up and running after receiving $90 million in federal grants in 2017. So officials found a model that was already working in Vermont, and supersized it to fit the sprawling state.

    The scaling up of the "Hub and Spoke" system, particularly in rural areas, has presented challenges but also delivered results in locales like this Gold Rush-era city east of Sacramento — and dovetailed with existing efforts to expand medication-assisted treatment to give the state a two-pronged approach to confronting the opioid epidemic.

    Hub and Spoke, first launched in Vermont in 2012, features a system of regional addiction treatment centers or "hubs" that are connected with "spokes" like primary care practices and local clinics. Patients have individual treatment plans. The system allows many patients to get help close to home, at clinics that offer buprenorphine, a drug seen as the gold standard for treating opioid abuse symptoms, and that employ behavioral health providers and nurse case managers. Those with more complex cases, who for example need to be treated daily with methadone, can be referred to a centralized hub.

    After starting with 18 hubs and 57 spokes, the California effort has expanded in a year and a-half to include more than 200 spokes statewide. The state has also layered on other programs, including one that treats people suffering from opioid withdrawal in an emergency room with buprenorphine, and then refers them to a nearby spoke, often the next day.

    California doesn't rank with opioid abuse hot spots like West Virginia, Ohio or New Hampshire. But rural pockets, particularly in the north of the state, have experienced alarming overdose death rates.

    Beth Tanzman, the Vermont state health official who manages Hub and Spoke there, told POLITICO that while states like Louisiana and New Hampshire have adapted the program, “it’s so important and impressive to see states like California figure out how to scale treatment” for opioid use disorder.

    As of last month, more than 13,000 patients in the state have used the model, and the number of physicians prescribing buprenorphine has increased by 82 percent since July 2017, according to the state Department of Health Care Services.

    The overarching goal in California is to create a framework for treating a range of addiction disorders, including alcohol, methamphetamines and other substances.

    “We know people with addiction are showing up in emergency rooms and clinics and they have mental health issues and they’re getting arrested and they go to jail,” said Kelly Pfeifer, a physician and addiction specialist at the California Health Care Foundation. “Why shouldn’t they get treated wherever they land?”

    As it builds out the hub-and-spoke system, California has taken advantage of several waves of federal grants totaling some $266 million to expand the use of medication-assisted treatment. The state may yet have to tap into other sources and find efficienciesonce the grants run out.

    Despite the short-term nature of the grants, California wanted to take an aggressive approach, said Marlies Perez, chief of substance use disorder compliance at the state's health care services department. “These federal dollars have been huge in making this happen.”

    The money has helped fund an innovative emergency department program, originally called the E.D. Bridge program, which offers patients experiencing opioid withdrawal symptoms immediate access to buprenorphine, also known by the brand name Suboxone. A form that dissolves under the tongue and can resolve symptoms within a matter of minutes is provided right in the emergency room.

    The programstarted a year ago in 12 hospitals and now includes 31 hospitals and one clinic, nearly half of which are located in rural areas of the state.

    “We want the entire state,” said Aimee Moulin, an emergency physician at the University of California, Davis who is a regional coordinator for the Bridge program. “Our overall goal is to make this the standard of care.”

    Placerville is one of the few places in California where the Hub and Spoke and Bridge programs are being deployed together, offering immediate overdose treatment in the small, rural hospital’s emergency department.

    “We’re a small county and a small organization, but we’re going to start seeing this take off across the state because of these two programs,” said Loni Jay, a physician who in November opened a new spoke, Marshall CARES, an outpatient clinic steps from the hospital, Marshall Medical Center in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada.

    The county — El Dorado — was quick to establish spokes, due primarily to providers at El Dorado Community Health Centers who were already prescribing buprenorphine well in advance of the hub-and-spoke federal grant. Marshall Medical Center was also one of the first hospitals in the state to sign on to the E.D. Bridge pilot. The hospital recently brought on board a substance use navigator to help guide patients.

    “What we’re doing is providing a full integration of care — behavioral health, a MAT [medication-assisted treatment] program, R.N. case managers, licensed alcohol and drug counselors, medical assistants,” said Terri Lee Stratton, CEO of the four-clinic El Dorado Community Health Centers.

    The nearest hub still is nearly an hour away, in Roseville. But most providers say they rarely have to refer patients, because they can typically be managed at the clinic level.

    Patients suffering from withdrawal who show up at the emergency room get treated on the spot with Suboxone. Then they’re set up with a next-day appointment at a nearby spoke.

    Though Marshall providers treat just one or two patients a week in this fashion, they say the program is already starting to have an effect.

    “We treat them quickly and effectively, and that doubles the likelihood of them being in treatment in 30 days,” said Arianna Sampson, a physician assistant who helped set up the Bridge program.

    For the 49 weeks starting in August 2017, 92 percent of the patients treated at the hospital with Suboxone followed up by seeking care at a spoke, according to Sampson, with the nearest one 15 miles away. After a year, 26 of those patients were still in treatment, accounting for a 74 percent success rate.

    Meanwhile, buprenorphine use in El Dorado County increased 89 percent from 2015 to 2017, according to state public health statistics. Statewide buprenorphine prescribing increased just 14 percent over that period.

    California still faces barriers to getting these programs up to speed around the state, including stigma from health professionals and resistance from traditional substance-abuse providers. To prescribe buprenorphine, doctors have to get special training and a federal license known as an “X-waiver.” Though that's created bureaucratic hurdles, the opioid legislationl Congress passed last October expanded who could prescribe it.

    The experience has professionals optimistic the region will have the infrastructure to treat other forms of substance abuse, including methamphetamines.

    “I truly believe we’re reversing this opioid epidemic,” Sampson said. “But what we know about the history of humankind, there will be something else.”