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Q&A: McLean County Center for Human Services strengthens behavioral health network

Joan Hartman sits at a table, angled toward the camera. A painting hangs on the wall in the background.
Melissa Ellin
Joan Hartman, CEO of the McLean County Center for Human Services.

Illinois is building a network of Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics (CCBHCs) — a national program designed to strengthen mental health and substance use services in communities.

The McLean County Center for Human Services will now enter this state network. CCBHCs provide care to anyone who asks, regardless of their ability to pay. They also have 24/7 behavioral health crisis operations and coordinate care across the communities they serve. These are just some of the requirements of a CCBHC.

Center CEO Joan Hartman spoke to WGLT on how operations will change.

Interview has been edited for clarity:

WGLT: The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration — or SAMHSA— is giving the Center for Human Services $1 million in grant funding to become the area's Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic. How will those funds be used? And will any new services be introduced?

Hartman: It is planning money for us to be able to set up our infrastructure to be able to provide the nine core services that a Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic is needing to provide. We provide a lot of those services, but not all of those services. So part of what we have done is we went for this grant to help us to improve our infrastructure to be able to meet all of those requirements because the state is setting up a system where it is setting up certified community behavioral health clinics. In that system, this planning grant then enables us to get ready to be part of that system. We are part of... the CCBHC process that Chestnut Health Systems has put into place. So really, our desire in having this grant to improve our infrastructure is to make us a better partner and to make us a stronger system for the community.

You mentioned that you provide as Center for Human Services, some of the services, the nine facets, if you will, required of the CCBHC. Do you mind going over the ones that Center for Human Services does not currently provide?

Hartman: The one that we currently don't provide is substance use disorder services, and Chestnut provides that already, so that underneath the CCBHC for the community they would continue to provide that service.

And another facet of the Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic is the ability to operate 24/7/365, or at least have a unit that does. Center for Human Services has the Behavioral Health Urgent Care with this intended purpose. We know at WGLT that there have been staffing issues in the past, largely related to the widespread workforce shortage issues. Have these been resolved? How will they be resolved if they're not currently?

Hartman: Our Behavioral Health Urgent Care, we operate that program from nine in the morning until one in the morning, seven days a week. Part of how we meet that criteria, though, is also having our mobile crisis team. Our mobile crisis team operates 24 hours a day seven days a week and can respond to crisis.

Now back to your question about staffing, because we don't have that night shift covered, we continue to look for people and we have not been successful. We have several positions open here at the center that we continue to struggle in finding staff for those positions, and our workforce issues continue. That's going to be part of what we work on as part of this project.

One of the positions that we have that is funded through this project is a volunteer and internship coordinator position. We're looking for someone to fill that position now. Our goal is to be able to partner with higher ed to be able to provide top-notch internships, which we currently do, but we want to provide more of those so that we can then be a training ground for individuals wanting to provide mental health services.

You already mentioned the partnership that is active with Chestnut Health Systems. Center for Human Services also partners with Salvation Army, other social services, and health services in the area. That is one of the other facets of the Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic. So will there be more of those care coordination partnerships to come? What can we expect to come from that?

Hartman: The biggest thing for us is strengthening the partnerships that we have right now and being able to provide services and have better access to the care that we give, better access to all the services that we provide, including psychiatry and counseling. I think the biggest thing that we're going to be working on in the first couple of years is that relationship with Chestnut Health Systems, where because they also have that same designation, our commitment is to create one system so that it's not that we have a CCBHC and they have a CCBHC, and they continue to be two separate programs.

Our goal is to create one system that has an ease of access so that when people need services, they're not going through a list of, 'Okay, this is what that person provides, this is what that agency provides.' But to be able to enter into any door, whether it's at Chestnut to be able to get services here, also, or be referred over in what we call like a warm handoff, and vice versa.

In the grant proposal to SAMHSA, there was mention of a detailed plan for meeting the clinic criteria. And as you said before, the funding that's coming from this grant is really for planning around this community behavioral health clinic. Can you share any of that plan at this point? And I think you've done that a little already. But is there more to be said there? Or is it still in the beginning stages?

Hartman: It really is in the beginning stages, the first process that we'll undergo is a community needs assessment. Our community is very robust in completing needs assessments. This one will be specific to behavioral health and specific to the center in terms of what services do our clients and potential clients think are lacking, things that we can then pick up, and that then will inform the plan that we make in order to meet those needs.

What can the community expect? Particularly, what can an average citizen of McLean County, or surrounding area really expect to come from this, especially considering that there is a CCBHC currently, with Chestnut? What will the Center for Human Services be adding?

Hartman: We want to be able to improve our access so that we decrease our wait times for services — both for psychiatric and outpatient services — so that people who need services right away are able to come in get those services. So I think that's our biggest piece that we're going to be looking at and that hopefully within the next 12 months — not hopefully — I'm confident that it within the next 12 months, we'll be able to see a real difference for people.

That was all I had. But was there anything else at all you wanted to add?

Hartman: I think that for us our commitment here at the center is and has always been our desire to really do the best that we can for our community, so this project really is the next step in that whole process.

We depend on your support to keep telling stories like this one. WGLT’s mental health coverage is made possible in part by Report For America and Chestnut Health Systems. Please take a moment to donate now and add your financial support to fully fund this growing coverage area so we can continue to serve the community.

Melissa Ellin is a reporter at WGLT and a Report for America corps member, focused on mental health coverage.
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