Valley News – 3 mental health agencies in Upper Valley receive federal grants
LEBANON — Three community mental health facilities serving the Upper Valley received federal grants to expand and maintain their services amid ongoing labor shortages and rising demand for services following the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Lebanon-based West Central Behavioral Health, based in Springfield, Vt. Based Health and Rehabilitation Services in Southeast Vermont and the Randolph-based Clara Martin Center each received $4 million in grants over four years from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The grants, designed to help mental health agencies become certified community behavioral health clinics (CCBHCs), began late last month and will run through September 29, 2026.
While the impact of the grants may not be immediately apparent to customers, West Central CEO Roger Osmun said he’s confident that over the long term, the grants would help increase Medicaid rates and change how mental health care is reimbursed, which would bring reimbursement rates closer to the cost of providing the services.
“Honestly, the federal government is increasing the Medicaid match for states using the CCBHCs model,” Osmun said.
The model is somewhat similar to that of state-qualified health centers, which receive money from the federal government to help them provide specific health services.
However, part of this increased reimbursement is to track data to show the cost of delivering the quality of care required by the certified centers. Osmun said he expects 80% of the subsidy to go towards wages and benefits and the rest towards education. West Central is currently seeking a CCBHC Quality Data Analyst and Project Assessor and Project Manager.
Osmun said the grant “won’t radically change what we do.” West Central already fulfills eight of the nine required “core areas”. The ninth concerns the organization of services for veterans and active-duty military personnel.
HCRS celebrated receiving the grant in a recent press release, saying it will allow greater flexibility in service delivery, expand professional development opportunities for staff and increase the organization’s collaboration with primary care providers.
While West Central and HCRS received planning, development, and implementation grants for the first time, the Clara Martin Center grant expands on the work it began in early 2021, when it first received a two-year, $4 million planning grant received.
Christie Everett, Clara Martin’s director of operations, said that the first grant “opened up so many opportunities for us.”
For example, she said the grant enabled them to offer services to uninsured people. It enabled Clara Martin to establish weekend clinics at one of her locations, add nursing to an outpatient addiction treatment program, and establish a peer support program.
“It’s really allowed us to do a lot to really address some needs,” Everett said, noting that Clara Martin was also able to increase wages for hard-to-recruit master’s-level clinicians.
“It really puts the agencies on the potential path to financial stability,” she said. “That’s the hope.”
Clara Martin plans to focus the next round of funding on expanding programs for youth ages 16-22 and seniors ages 55 and older. The focus on these two groups emerged from a survey the organization conducted as part of the first grant.
The Transition Age Youth Program aims to provide mentoring and support as well as drug treatment and therapeutic adventure-based programs to youth and their families. The program aims to help young people develop self-esteem, problem-solving, goal-setting and communication skills.
Meanwhile, the Elder Care Services program aims to provide psychological support to the elderly at home or in an office, helping them improve mental health symptoms, overall functioning and quality of life while addressing issues such as drug use and to address isolation, which is compounded by the rural nature of Orange County. Clara Martin plans to improve its ability to respond to people’s homes to provide counseling, care coordination and integrated physical health care.
“Psychiatric care is health care, and it’s all connected,” Everett said.
Noting that there are still people in crises waiting for inpatient mental health beds in emergency rooms, Everett said she hopes this investment in “upstream” services will help prevent people from reaching a crisis point.
The grant’s focus on providing “more holistic care in one place” aligns with the goals of the Vermont Department of Mental Health, said Alison Krompf, the department’s deputy commissioner. Specifically, the CCBHC model focuses on the co-delivery of mental health and drug use treatments, as well as the provision of peer support, services specifically targeted at veterans and military personnel, and mobile crisis response, which “is something that the state is very interested in ‘ said Kramp.
Ultimately, “tougher quality standards and better access to care; everyone wants to do that,” she said.
Krompf was wary of the difference the model could make in mental health funding. She said it’s not a “cost-based reimbursement model,” but a “cost-related” model. “There’s an angle here to talk about what it costs,” she said.
Despite the increased demand for care following the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic and labor shortages, Krompf said, “We’re glad people are still willing to explore innovative options.” The department is “open and interested in where this is going.” .
Nora Doyle-Burr can be reached at [email protected] or 603-727-3213.