Executive Office of Health and Human Services

—January 26, 2022

BOSTON – Today the Baker-Polito Administration announced additional resources that support the implementation of the Roadmap for Behavioral Health Reform as part of the Administration’s commitment to improving the behavioral health delivery system in Massachusetts. These initiatives will make it easier for residents to find and access behavioral health services, reduce reliance on hospital emergency rooms and improve and streamline availability of behavioral health clinical services for adults and youth.

This announcement comes as the Administration files its Fiscal Year 2023 (FY23) budget proposal containing $115 million in new behavioral health supports. The Executive Office of Health and Human Services is providing further details about the way these funds will be utilized to implement the Roadmap.

The new resources include:

  • Establishment of a new 24/7 Behavioral Health Help Line
  • Launch of a Behavioral Health Urgent Care program,
  • Establishment of Community Behavioral Health Centers,
  • Permanent Medicaid rate increases for outpatient behavioral health clinic services,
  • Expansion of hospital emergency department diversion programs, including an intensive program for children and youth, and
  • Expansion of Program Assertive Community Treatment (PACT) programs for adults and development of PACT for youth.

“These investments are aimed to open up the front door and to ease the availability of urgent and outpatient behavioral health services to the residents of the Commonwealth, including appropriate diversion from the acute care hospital system,” said Secretary of Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders. “As we expand access and incentivize health care providers to provide evidence-based treatment, hopefully, we come closer to the goals of achieving parity, providing effective treatment, ensuring equity and improving health outcomes.”

“MassHealth is committed to promoting a health care system focused on quality and member experience that is accessible and outcomes driven. Ensuring that behavioral health services are readily available for our members through increased funding and incentives continues to be a key strategy in these efforts,” said Assistant Secretary for MassHealth Amanda Cassel Kraft. “We understand that creating additional outpatient treatment options is critical while also making sure providers have the resources they need.”

“Making behavioral health care an integral and accessible part of health care has long been a priority at the Department of Mental Health,” said Department of Mental Health Commissioner Brooke Doyle. “We look forward to expanding our efforts to reduce time spent in the Commonwealth’s emergency rooms, and to expediting timely access for people of all ages to fully integrated behavioral health treatment in all communities.”

“Now more than ever, real-time access to outpatient behavioral healthcare is vital to meet the treatment needs of individuals and families throughout the Commonwealth,” said Lydia Conley, President/CEO of the Association for Behavioral Healthcare. “These investments and initiatives will enable providers to deliver innovative care close to home and help disrupt emergency department boarding. We are grateful for the Baker-Polito Administration’s continued recognition of the importance of robust outpatient services in addressing mental health care needs before a crisis occurs.”

“We applaud the Baker Administration on the implementation of the Roadmap and its new front door, which addresses one of the thorniest problems facing individuals and families looking for help – navigating our complex system of behavioral health services,” said Danna E. Mauch, President/CEO of Massachusetts Association for Mental Health (MAMH). “Behind the front door people will find more convenient and timely access to effective ambulatory and urgent care to provide support before a crisis develops and minimize need for emergency care down the road.”

24/7 Behavioral Health Help Line

In February, EOHHS will release a procurement for a 24/7 Behavioral Health Help Line, planned to launch in early 2023. The Help Line will serve as a single point of contact, or “front door,” for Commonwealth residents in search of mental health and substance use disorder outpatient services for routine, urgent, and crisis needs.

The Help Line will be operational 24/7/365 and provide services to residents regardless of insurance or ability to pay. The Help Line will also work in close coordination with and be a key point of contact to Community Behavioral Health Centers. Through the launch of this Help Line, the state will ensure all populations receive clinically informed, supportive assistance in navigating and securing appropriate behavioral health treatment.

Community Behavioral Health Centers (CBHCs)

This month, the Commonwealth will begin procurement of Community Behavioral Health Centers (CBHCs), centralized community-based locations that will provide same-day evaluation and referral to treatment that includes evening and weekend hours, timely follow-up appointments, and evidence-based treatment for both mental health and addiction, in person and via telehealth. There will be a network of CBHCs across the Commonwealth. These CBHCs will deliver 24/7 community-based mobile crisis intervention and stabilization as an alternative to hospital emergency departments, in addition to outpatient clinic services.

Behavioral Health Urgent Care

Launching in February 2022, the Behavioral Health Urgent Care program will provide increased access to treatment by incenting MassHealth-participating mental health centers to extend their hours beyond the typical 9 to 5 business-day, as well as provide same or next day appointments.

By providing timely appointments and availability outside of typical business hours and on weekends, participating mental health providers will be able to better serve MassHealth members. This program will make it easier for members to obtain services on their own schedules while also diverting members with urgent needs away from emergency rooms to these community-based locations where specialized treatment is readily available.

MassHealth Outpatient Behavioral Health Rate Increases

MassHealth will permanently increase outpatient behavioral health rates by 10%. This investment builds on a temporary pandemic 10% rate increase to support staffing costs that expires at the end of June 2022. The permanent rate increase will be effective July 1 in all of MassHealth’s managed care plans and in October 2022 for MassHealth fee-for-service programs.

Emergency Department Diversion Programs

The Department of Mental Health (DMH) Emergency Department Diversion Programs partners with hospitals and providers to provide alternative services to youth and adults experiencing behavioral health crises that have the capacity to be treated at home. As of late December 2021, these programs have provided services to over 130 youth and 270 adults. In addition to DMH funding, in February 2022, MassHealth will expand the intensive crisis intervention services and in-home therapy services.

These hospital emergency department diversion programs will relieve longstanding challenges with emergency department boarding that have been exacerbated by the pandemic, while expediting behavioral health treatment for youth and support for their family.

PACT Program Expansion

In March 2022, DMH will release a procurement to add additional Adult Program for Assertive Community Treatment (PACT) programs, with services intended to launch in July 2022. PACT is an evidenced-based, clinically informed, and community-based treatment model for individuals with serious mental illness who require more specialized treatment than traditional mental health programs or office-based interventions.

DMH currently provides PACT services to over 1,300 adults in 19 programs across the state.

Additionally, DMH is developing a Youth PACT model, adapting the evidence-based model to serve youth exhibiting symptoms of serious emotional disturbance who have not been successfully served with traditional community-based treatment approaches. The expansion of PACT will increase access for adults and youth beyond traditional clinical settings.