Video Transcript: What's Next for Children's Behavioral Health?
A Conversation with CHDI’s President and CEO Jeff Vanderploeg,
There is a lot of attention on children's behavioral health right now and for good reason. We are in a children's behavioral health crisis and we have been for a number of years. I think what's changed is that more people have become aware of that crisis than ever before as a result of the pandemic. So, now, we're seeing a lot more attention and investment in children's behavioral health than we've seen over the many years.
To make sure that kids get the care that they need, we don't have to reinvent the wheel and the system doesn't need a fundamental overhaul. We need better efficiency with the resources that we have and we need further investment in the services that work. I want to see three things happen this year. I want to see further investment in our children's behavioral health workforce. I want to see expansion of key services within our system and then I want to see improved efficiency and stronger decision-making structures that rely on evidence to really guide where we are making our decisions and how we're going to invest in services over time.
If we don't have the providers to deliver care, we can invest as much money as we want to into new services but we won't have the people to actually deliver those services. We need to establish better rates that attract more people into the children's behavioral health workforce and keep them there. The way that we've invested in the children's behavioral health system is different than how we've invested in the rest of the healthcare delivery system. I think we need to invest in children's behavioral health in a way that matches the true cost of providing that care and I think we need to invest in a way that truly meets the need that exists out there in the community so that no child and family in need of behavioral health services gets turned away. We need to ensure that behavioral health services are accessible and affordable to children and families. Otherwise, we're not going to address the need that exists.
There are few places in the service delivery system that wouldn't benefit from more resources and more expansion but there are really a small number that are most in need of support. First of all, I think we could do a better job of investing in prevention and early intervention services, including services for our youngest children exhibiting behavioral health needs. Secondly, I think we need to invest more in outpatient mental health treatment. That's the backbone of our service system and we really need to significantly bolster and support that level of care. Third, I think that we need to invest more in intermediate levels of care. These are things like intensive outpatient programs and extended day treatment, which help really to relieve the pressures in other parts of the system. Lastly, I think we need to make sure that we have right sized the deepest parts of our system. What I mean by the deepest parts of the system, these are the most intensive services that are available. In patient services and residential treatment. And we are in the process of making sure that we have the right availability of services at the deepest end of the system.
So, the workforce is very important. The service delivery system is obviously very important. But the way that we make decisions and who's at the table also needs a lot of critical examination in our state. Over the last several years, we've created a lot of committees and councils and task forces focusing on children's behavioral health. Many of those committees and councils focus on specific parts of the system. I think we're at a point in time in Connecticut where we can start to bring these committees and councils together, make sure that all the right people are at the table, that we're all working from the same playbook and that we can make efficient decisions about how we want to invest our resources.
I am feeling optimistic about the future of the children's behavioral health system. I think that if we make decisions about where to invest in our workforce and in our service delivery system, we're going to see better outcomes for children and families, and that's what we all want.