A Game Plan for Building a Sustainable Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic (CCBHC)

The goal of the Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics (CCBHC) is to improve patient care across the healthcare spectrum, serving highly complex patients while avoiding the use of high-cost, low-return care models though community-based alternatives that improve care management. Based on the success of the first wave of CCHBC’s, Congress has acted five times to extend the demonstration project and has allocated $450 million (to date) for CCBHC expansion grants. The number of CCBHC’s have expanded from 66 in 2015, to 166 in 2020.  The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has embraced the CCBHC concept of integrated care and behavioral health providers, who have long supported integrated care, are now looking to the CCBHC model as an economically viable way to support this model of care.

Indeed, CCBHC’s have an excellent opportunity to be leaders in the new integrated healthcare system if they can display the following specific values:

  1. Accessibility: All needed services – mental health, substance abuse treatment, and physical health care – are provided in-house or quickly, in proximity, within the community.
  2. Efficiency: Multiple services can be provided daily, with one patient visit instead of multiple visits.
  3. Connection: Electronic Health Records (EHR) are used across service lines to produce and track clinical and quality metrics.
  4. Accountability: A commitment to producing the array of quality metrics required for quarterly reporting, in nearly real time.
  5. Adaptability: A commitment to using bundled payment arrangements that help clinics adopt and utilize alternative payment models instead of fee-for-service.

To meet these core values, provider organizations, in many cases, have had to update their organization’s service lines, hire new staff, and implement or update Electronic Health Record systems (EHRs). These changes represent substantial economic and human resource expenses. While enhanced reimbursement and up-front grant dollars have helped to offset the expense, it still begs the question: “How does an organization sustain the model beyond the grant period?” (https://vbcforbh.com/are-you-really-ready-for-value-based-payment/)

Thinking Beyond Grant Funding

The recipients of the 2020 CCBHC Expansion Grant the funding stream are only guaranteed funding for two years. A few considerations are important. The first is that funding may not be renewed. Considering potential fiscal deficits expected from the COVID epidemic, there is a distinct possibility that additional funding will not be there. A second possibility is that state funding may supplant federal funding. As states grapple with the aftermath of a pandemic, fewer state dollars will be available.  Already, Nevada has made a 6% cut to Medicaid dollars (https://vbcforbh.com/nevada-moves-forward-with-6-medicaid-fee-for-service-rate-cut/).

SAMSHA was abundantly clear that grant participants should not expect more federal support. The newest round of grantees were given the task to: “Develop and implement plans for sustainability to ensure delivery of services once federal funding ends. Recipients should not anticipate the continued renewal of federal funding to support this effort. Federal funding is subject to funding availability and is also subject to a competitive grant award process. Recipients must develop and implement sustainability plans to ensure continued service once the grant ends. Recipients will be asked to report on sustainability plans” (https://www.samhsa.gov/sites/default/files/grants/pdf/fy-2020-ccbhc-foa.pdf).

The long-term sustainability of CCBHC programming requires a strategic response.

Community Behavioral Health Clinic (CCBHC) Sustainability and Value-Based Reimbursement

The CCBHC’s with an eye toward a future will be looking for alternative revenue streams immediately. The good news is that the CCBHC infrastructure of data driven health care focused on improved outcomes and diminished costs is an ideal match for payers who are looking for lower cost interventions and improved population health, and are using Value Based Reimbursement (VBR) to meet these goals.

The organizational readiness for CCBHC implementation has laid the groundwork for Value Based Programming.  The development of Evidenced Based Practices, addition of service lines, hiring new staff, affiliations with emergency care, adoption enhanced payment processes, and implementing and updating you Electronic Health Records (EHR) to capture clinical and quality data has positioned CCBHC to think about working with both private and public payers.

A Growing Value Based Culture

The OPEN MINDS 2019 State-By-State Update found that 28 of the 40 states with Medicaid managed care require health plans to implement alternative payment arrangements (APMs) with provider organizations. This is up from 22 states out of 39 states in 2017. And Value-Based processes are at the center of the trend. Organizational readiness for VBR follows a defined path:

(See OPEN MINDS Are You Really Ready for Value-Based Payment?)

The CCBHC is already this path, developing a VBR infrastructure. The next step is to define the unique value proposition of the CCBHC.

Defining the Unique Value Proposition to New Payors

A successful sustainability plan keeps the following goals in mind:

  • Have the Data: Understand internal unit costs and key performance indicators (KPI). Fortunately, the data needed to do this can be found in your CCBHC data. Use this to data to develop a picture of what the CCBHC does well, and where there are opportunities for improvement. Knowing strengths and possible risks will be important guides in rate negotiations.
  • Know the Customer: Research the payers in the market. For the health plans and accountable care organizations, know their structure and customers, their current service delivery network, executive teams, and their enrollment in your service areas. A CCBHC plan has flexibility to meet the changing needs of the marketplace. Alignment with those needs will make a CCBHC more attractive to payers that need services.  (See What Are Health Plans Actually Doing? and Trends in Behavioral Health: A Population Health Manager’s Reference Guide on the U.S. Behavioral Health Financing and Delivery System).
  • Prepare for the End-Game. Think about future meetings with health plan executives to discuss current contracts and proposed services as the CCBHC plan is developed. Be prepared with a proposal and assess readiness for newer payment models (Use the Value-Based Reimbursement Readiness Assessment).

Build Relationships Now

Avoid scrambling at the last moment for new funding streams. Remember, payers know that mental health and substance use disorders are the leading causes of disease burden in America.  This is further exacerbated by co-morbidities faced by people with mental health and substance use disorders who also suffer from cardiovascular disease, and diabetes, and other chronic diseases. The CCBHC is addressing this issue head on and that needs to be highlighted. To do this you can start by doing the following:

  • Build relationships with payers immediately: Reach as high into the payer organization as possible to develop those relationships. Then attempt to establish formal touchpoints. A scorecard with quarterly data will provide updates on key points that may be of value to the health plan. These interactions need to be succinct and to the point.
  • Develop a Pitch Deck: Prepare a brief (one or two slide) value story that describes how the CCBHC’s programs are differentiated in terms of quality and costs, and how they contribute to health care cost savings for the payer.
  • Leverage Informal Meetings: Attend conferences and industry meetings with target payers. These less formal venues allow for additional touchpoints to reiterate the value the CCBHC brings to the table, and the differentiating strengths.

Finally, connecting with health plans comes down to persistence.  Provider organizations need to find the right contact in network management, or whoever is leading their local plan and continue to reach out. In the end, relationship-building is still based on quality communication. The CCBHC model is the perfect framework to build relationships with payer organizations.