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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2017 - 2018 Regular Session


Posted: May 8, 2018 03:04 PM
From: Senator Lisa Baker
To: All Senate members
Subject: Expanding a Proven Community/School Based Behavioral Health Model
As we all learn more about school safety issues, it is evident that an integral part of any potential solution is improved delivery of behavioral health services in our schools and communities. While there are different ideas and approaches being discussed, a highly successful model currently operates in northeastern Pennsylvania and deserves serious consideration for broader application.

The Northeast Behavioral Health Care Consortium (NBHCC) manages the Behavioral HealthChoices Program in a four-county region – Lackawanna, Luzerne, Susquehanna and Wyoming. It is governed by a board of directors representing the county-based human service leadership of the four counties. NBHCC, in collaboration with their MCO, Community Care Behavioral Health, administers a Community/School Based Behavioral Health Team Program (CSBBH) that is currently serving 55 schools in 17 districts in the above four counties.

CSBBH is typically comprised of two master’s level clinicians and five bachelor’s level staff, with smaller teams operating in some schools. Team members receive specialized training in drug and alcohol and mental health services prior to working in the schools. Each team is comprised of staff who are full or part-time employees of a mental health provider organization.

CSBBH teams become integrated within the schools, working closely with teachers and professional staff to best serve students. A full team is able to provide services to approximately 30-35 children and their families. Services may include individual, family or group therapies; behavioral case management; assessment; crisis intervention; family support; service referral and linkage; and, consultation and training for school faculty. This is an outcomes-based program that utilizes a variety of measures to track youth and family functioning, symptom improvement, and overall behavior at home and in the community. School grades and attendance are also monitored to evaluate effectiveness.

NBHCC leadership currently utilizes existing Medicaid dollars from the Department of Human Services (DHS), which seems appropriate, as they are already tasked with administering behavioral health services in the counties and are in the best position to coordinate these school-based services with broader community offerings.

School superintendents, teachers, board members, and behavioral health professionals find this approach highly successful and believe it has been effective in helping students and families for the last 10 years. Data suggest the program has been effective in helping to reduce youth residential treatment facility placements, as the average daily attendance in residential facilities has decreased from 250 to 40 during this period.

My proposal will require the Department of Human Services to replicate this model as an option for school districts statewide. Because there are already similar examples of this operation in other parts of the state, the potential exists for an expedited rollout to deliver these critical services in all of our communities.