After 12 months of research, surveys, and multi-agency collaborations, Rockland County has released its final report from the County Executive Commission on Community Behavioral Health on Friday, August 21.
County Executive Ed Day, District Attorney Thomas Zugibe and other local officials released the report, which sets out its recommendations to reshape the behavioral health service delivery system in Rockland County in a cost effective and responsible way.
“Improving behavioral health services is a top priority of my administration,” said County Executive Day. “With these valuable recommendations, we take a major step toward ensuring that individuals and families facing behavioral health issues get the help they need, anywhere, anytime in Rockland County.”
The report has 191 recommendations such as tele-psychiatry for children, addressing housing concerns, increasing outpatient services and overall is essentially a road map to breaking barriers and getting people with mental health issues, chemical dependency, and developmental services the services they need.
Critical findings and related recommendations were divided into five categories:
Programs where consumers, residents and providers felt satisfied with services.
RECOMMENDATIONS: Use of consumer satisfaction surveys, expansion of services that are working, county taking a role in encouraging collaboration.
Lack of Awareness of Behavioral Health Services
Both the public-at-large and the providers/consumers were unaware of many of the services currently available in Rockland County. The Commission identified a need for a centralized site to find behavioral health resource information.
RECOMMENDATIONS: Create a “one-stop” site for information regarding behavioral health, possibly by an expansion of or connection with InfoRock, and the county changing contractual requirements to ensure that agencies provide updated information – at least annually – on their services.
Barriers to Receiving Care
The barriers included transportation and housing. The largest obstacle involves a lack of insurance or insurance not accepted. Cultural competence was lacking (languages spoken, cultural awareness). Hours of operation, location of services were also identified as problems.
RECOMMENDATIONS: Include reduced bus fare to help consumers access behavioral health services; County advocacy on state and federal levels to address insurance restrictions (make behavioral health parity a reality); training on cultural issues; recruit a diverse workforce; change/increase hours of operation to include evenings, weekends, satellites in the community.
Gaps in Services
Gaps in service represent the largest shortcoming in the County’s current behavioral health delivery system. Gaps fell into seven categories: adult mental health, chemical dependency, child and adolescent mental health, crisis services, co-located services, criminal justice, intellectual/developmental disabilities.
RECOMMENDATIONS: Adult mental health included re-imagining/expanding services of Rockland Psychiatric Center through telepsychiatry and a re-branding of clinic; intensive outpatient services, and increased access to beds at Rockland Psych. Chemical dependency included and expansion of prevention counseling services and treatment services; children and adolescents included a new child clinic through RCPC; expansion of school-based programs and family support; expansion of behavioral health services at the Rockland County Jail and probation department.
Role of Government
All felt that local government plays a vital role. State and federal governments are perceived to be too large to understand and focus, while municipalities are too small to appropriately meet needs. Expectations of government included planning and coordination, advocacy, needs assessment, policy development.
RECOMMENDATIONS: Revitalize the former Unified Services System (rename to the Unified Services Behavioral Health system); re-empower the Community Services Board and County planning process to be more connected to County Executive and Legislature; allow greater government input into decisions affecting behavioral health; coordinate overall behavioral health system re-design through the County Executive’s Office (cuts across multiple departments and systems both within and outside of government).
During the Commission’s assessment process, the county began working collaboratively with local nonprofit partners to develop ways to support the services provided by the agencies, creating a seamless relationship between government and providers. This includes improving the system in which agencies apply for county dollars to provide services. (Applications are now found on the county’s website). In addition, all county departments will schedule visits to the agencies to provide guidance, identify areas for improvement and to see that residents are receiving the services they need and deserve.