April 2, 2020
Dear Association Executives, If it has been a tumultuous couple of weeks for me, I can only imagine how it has been for you. I do hope that each of you are well and doing what you can to continue to make that true. I am in awe of the logistical and human challenges that you face as you pivot all of your services, attempt to take care of your staff and consumers, and deal with all of the other noise that is competing for your attention. The National Council staff are hard at work trying to support our members. We are asking staff across service lines to prioritize COVID response and to pivot projects and funding for this purpose. All of our foundation and government funders are supportive and we will see the fruit of these shifts soon. We have also been very engaged on the policy front, resulting in $250 million in emergency funding for Community Behavioral Health Organizations in the recent stimulus package. While we wait for word from SAMHSA on how these funds will be apportioned, I sent the attached letter to SAMHSA. The stimulus also contained another short-term extension of the CCBHC program to November (in line with other Medicaid extenders) and importantly added 2 additional states to the Medicaid demo. This week, I sent a letter to the 3 national associations representing mental health authorities, single state agencies for substance use and Medicaid directors asking that their state level organizations made interim advance payments to CBHOs in light of the revenue shortfalls that so many are experiencing. We know that several states are doing this, and we want to encourage all of them to do the same. We have heard early and often that the lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) is an issue for our member organizations, especially in residential settings. An early outreach to the national association representing state health departments resulted in the recommendations that the National Council develop guidance for these types of facilities that could be shared with state, local and territorial health departments. We produced this residential guidance and it has been shared with each of these audiences as well as the CDC. We'll continue to update this document as the situation on the ground evolves in the days ahead. We understand, however, that the lack of PPE continues to be a need. To that end, we sent a letter to Vice President Mike Pence yesterday asking that behavioral health organizations be allotted PPE. The letter was co-signed by the leaders of NAMI, MHA and the American Psychiatric Association and we will be able to send it tomorrow. Through a referral from one of our member organizations we have also made contact with a supplier and will be purchasing a large lot of face masks that we can re-distribute to member organizations.
These are just the highlights. We are meeting with the State Associations weekly; continually updating our COVID resources on the website; providing daily video updates from me to our membership; and actively preparing for the next legislative package. In response to the request from board members to increase the profile of CBHOs as essential providers the National Council developed a blog series called Coping in a Crisis. Coping in a Crisis: On the Frontlines with the Mental Health Association of Essex and Morris Inc. highlights Chief Executive Officer, Robert Davison, MA, LPC and his staff and their ability to pivot in a crisis by innovating and adapting to continue to provide essential behavioral health services and treatment. In addition to publishing and promoting the blog on social media, the PR team will be reaching out to healthcare reporters in Essex and Morris county to offer up Robert Davison for media interviews to local papers. Subsequent blogs will be developed with Chief Executive Officers, Jeff Richardson (Sheppard Pratt Health System/Baltimore), Tim Swinfard (Compass Health Network/ Everett) and Vitka Eisen (HealthRIGHT360/San Francisco) to further demonstrate how behavioral health care workers are providing essential services and are frontline providers risking their lives to help patients during these uncertain times. In addition, we will be offering each CEO to local healthcare reporters within their hometowns.
We are keenly aware that much more help is needed for our sector and will continue to pursue as much relief and support as we can. We also know well that our association members are the backbone of the National Council, and we appreciate you. Never hesitate to be in touch should you have any questions, suggestions or needs.
President & CEO
National Council for Behavioral Health
Direct: (202) 684-3749