State plan will boost access to mental health support

New “front door” access to mental health and substance use care in Massachusetts will help individuals and their loved ones, including older adults, figure out where to find the support they need and how to connect to it. The plan also designates Child & Family Services as the South Coast’s local service provider.

The expanded access comes through the 2023 implementation of a statewide Roadmap for Behavioral Health Reform plan outlining the designation of 25 Community Behavioral Health Centers, including Child & Family Services locations in both New Bedford and Fall River.

The designated CFS sites are now serving “as hubs for comprehensive community mental health and addiction care, providing routine and urgent outpatient services as well as crisis care for children and adults,” according to a media release on CFS’ website.

“Child & Family Services is both honored and excited to receive this designation as a CBHC from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts,” said Anne Sampaio, CEO, in the release. “Historically, CFS has been a primary provider of community and behavioral health services and we now look forward to the expansion and enrichment of these services in the Greater Fall River, New Bedford, Plymouth, and Cape Cod areas.”

“As a CBHC, MassHealth members will be able to receive timely, coordinated, and comprehensive treatment to address their behavioral healthcare needs,” Sampaio said.

In addition to the CBHCs, the statewide plan adds mobile crisis services and launches a 24/7 behavioral health help line that offers a single point of contact for real-time support, initial clinical assessment, and connection to the appropriate evaluation and treatment, regardless of insurance status or ability to pay, according to the state’s release. It is designed to reduce reliance on hospital emergency rooms by improving the availability of behavioral health clinical services for adults and youth.

CBHC services, provided in-person and via telehealth, include:

  • Same-day access to intake and brief assessment, urgent and crisis treatment, and medication;
  • Same-day evaluation and referral to treatment, with timely follow-up appointments;
  • Care across the lifespan for all ages – children, adults, and families; and,
  • Extended hours including evenings and weekends.

Announced in 2021, the reform plan is a multi-year blueprint, based on listening sessions and feedback from nearly 700 individuals, families, providers, and other stakeholders who identified the need for expanded access to treatment, more effective treatment, and improved health equity, the state said in a media release.

The hotline is available by calling or texting 833-773-BHHL or by online chat at Help in multiple languages is available.

CFS’ New Bedford site is the CBHC for the state’s southern coast, according to the organization, serving MassHealth members from Acushnet, Carver, Dartmouth, Duxbury, Fairhaven, Halifax, Hanover, Hanson, Kingston, Marion, Marshfield, Mattapoisett, New Bedford, Pembroke, Plymouth, Plympton Rochester and Wareham.

The CBHC for Fall River will serve MassHealth members from Fall River, Freetown, Somerset, Swansea, and Westport catchment areas, CFS said. The Cape Cod area will be served by Bay Cove Human Services as the designated CBHC, with a partnership with CFS to provide children’s services.

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