“Rimrock is a service to our community!”

Beth K.

Improving Behavioral Health and Substance Use Services in Montana

Behavioral Health Alliance of Montana’s (BHAM) vision is to ensure that quality, community-based services are available and accessible to people, families, and communities in need. BHAM’s mission is to achieve their vision with effective advocacy and support of service providers. As Chairperson of the Board of Directors of BHAM, Rimrock’s CEO Lenette Kosovich helps lead and coordinate public policy direction related to behavioral health services, as well as helps coordinate with other stakeholders in healthcare on advocacy and service delivery (primary care, criminal justice, law enforcement, child welfare, prevention). Through her work with BHAM, Lenette is working with others to build a voice for mental health and addiction services in Montana.

BHAM has created the “Already Gave” campaign directed at lawmakers to create awareness of the importance of mental health and addiction services in Montana. Through this campaign, BHAM hopes to create conversations between lawmakers and behavioral health and addiction services providers and work together to help our neighbors in need and establish the funding necessary for this important work.

Behavioral health providers have always competed for scarce resources and have often not been aware of key policy and regulatory opportunities. These providers have faced economic, regulatory, and workforce challenges in a rapidly evolving health care environment, and they have and continue to struggle to provide services to a group of people who are among the most vulnerable. At the same time, they have had few opportunities to meet, learn from each other, and collaborate on programs, health system reforms, strategic planning, or policy and advocacy.

Historical fragmentation of the behavioral health system has resulted in a fragmented delivery system in communities across Montana for adult mental health, youth mental health, and substance use disorders in the adult, youth, and American Indian populations.

“Pulling all sectors of the behavioral health provider community together allows us to provide expert solutions to the serious behavioral health problems facing Montana: high suicide rates and an epidemic of mental illness and substance use disorders.”

– Mary Windecker, BHAM Executive Director

In the past, Montana has had formal and informal state associations that reflect regulatory and oversight divisions (children, adults, substance use, mental health, and tribal) of the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services. But these organizations had never had consistent staffing and despite dedication and passion, there were few resources with which to engage effectively. In 2016, many were beginning to recognize that a strong state behavioral health association was needed to provide a powerful tool for strengthening behavioral health services. A behavioral health association that includes substance use disorders (SUD), would inherently elevate this part of the behavioral health spectrum as a valued and important health issue as well.

In June 2016, the Montana Health Care Foundation (MHCF) brought together executives from addiction, mental health, and tribal behavioral health organizations to discuss the idea of forming a strong state association representing all behavioral health services. Meeting participants observed that this was the first time the diverse group of behavioral health leaders had met! The leaders realized that to meaningfully embrace behavioral health in the greater health system, the behavioral health leaders themselves must be aligned and united—no small task for behavioral health providers that had functioned separately for decades. Over several meetings, this group decided to pursue creation of a state behavioral health association and solidify its commitment to unite as behavioral health providers and reinforce behavioral health as a foundational component in the state’s health care system.

MHCF provided convening resources, strategic leadership, and facilitation for this group. The group developed a vision, mission, and value statements, and committed to developing a business plan and achieving sustainability within three years. After a year of work, this group formed BHAM with a Founding Board consisting of two representatives each from the children’s, adult, substance use, and Native American groups.

Even as such a new organization, BHAM has already made critically important contributions to strengthening behavioral health in the state by:

  • Bringing behavioral health providers together to identify and address common issues. For example, BHAM is currently working on an initiative to develop a standard set of patient experience and service quality measures. With these measures in place, providers can better understand if their treatment is effective.
  • Advancing the use of peer support by behavioral health providers. BHAM contracted with the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) to support the early implementation of peer support by behavioral health providers by providing clinical supervision, training, and measuring outcomes.
  • Developing a single voice to speak for behavioral health providers. The ability to speak with a unified voice has allowed for a more constructive partnership and effective communication with DPHHS.
  • Offering behavioral health training opportunities.

More information on upcoming quality improvement and new skills training and other BHAM events can be found here.

BHAM has been successful in a task that had never been done before – pulling all the separate behavioral health providers together to work as a collaborative. By creating a unified purpose and voice, behavioral health disciplines across the state can collaborate, advocate for themselves effectively, and provide the best care possible for their patients. Rimrock is proud to be working with this amazing team of behavioral health and substance use professionals to improve the services available in Montana.

More information about BHAM can be found at montanabehavioralhealth.org.

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