In one of his last acts as governor of Massachusetts, Charlie Baker established 25 new behavioral health centers across the state and launched a 24/7 mental health hotline to both increase access to mental health services and lessen the burden on emergency rooms.
To learn more about the centers, Greater Boston host Craig LeMoult spoke with Kathy Mague, senior vice president of the Behavioral Health Network with a center in Springfield, and Vicker DiGravio III, president of Riverside Community Care, with centers in Milford and Norwood.
“The idea is it’s a one-stop shop for whole health wellness care for individuals with substance use and mental health challenges,” Mague said. “What’s different is that there is no wait for care … we get to serve you immediately.”
Mague noted that in the past, similar centers had therapy as the “one tool in their tool box." Now patients will have access to recovery coaches and community health workers who will also provide support related to housing, food and transportation. The centers will also have enhanced medical capacity to address low-level medical needs to treat patients more holistically.
DiGravio said the new centers' services mean patients don’t have to face long waits when they come to emergency rooms for mental health crises.
“Hopefully we’re going to intervene with folks, whether it’s a child, an adolescent or an adult, before they have to go to the emergency room and before they need acute in-patient stay,” DiGravio said. “So if we can get to folks earlier, one of the great things about this model is we can wrap supports around these individuals that we never have been able to do before, and hopefully keep them safe and healthy in their communities and stop them from having to ever go to an emergency department.”
While closing the mental health care gap in access will take a long time, DiGravio said these new centers are an important start.
“We have experienced 40 years of underfunding and neglect of the community behavioral health system,” he said. “This is really transformational, but it’s not going to fix 40 years of underfunding in four weeks or four months … but it’s a very important step.”
WATCH: Behind the efforts to expand access to mental health care in Massachusetts