As we gather with friends and family to reflect on the past year and ring in 2020, I want to call attention to a new community service that will soon be available to Dane County residents.

In what is truly a first-of-its-kind collaboration, Dane County government, private health providers and insurers, and community non-profit service providers are teaming together to support the creation of Dane County’s new Universal Access Resource Center. When opened, this center will help residents struggling with mental health and addiction challenges get connected to supportive resources and treatment.

Trying to navigate the maze of service options within the mental and behavioral health care field based on the type of insurance someone has and where their plan allows them to go can become overwhelming and ultimately deter them from seeking care. By opening this one-stop resource center and collaborating with health care providers, we hope to make it easier for Dane County residents to navigate the health care system and advocate for themselves and their loved ones.

This new call center will be designed after a model that has been effective with the Dane County Aging and Disability Resource Center, which serves as a single access point for seniors and those with disabilities to available community services. With nearly $500,000 being included in Dane County’s 2020 budget, our goal is to have staff hired for the new Universal Access Resource Center starting this spring with a grand opening in the summer. The center will operate from noon to 4 a.m. seven days a week with professional resource staff on hand to help connect individuals with available care and treatment.

Staff at the center will stay informed on service delivery changes related to behavioral and mental health in Dane County. Their knowledge will be used to help county residents seeking information on how to access care regardless of the system they are in. The call center will be rooted in integrated relationships with all providers and systems in the county, creating a mutually beneficial resource and referral exchange.

To complement this effort, I’m asking the Dane County Department of Human Services to convene a Universal Access Work Group comprised of private and public health care providers. The group will meet once a month for the next year and focus on the most effective means for private and public partners to collaborate. This workgroup will strive for tangible work products detailing processes and procedures, data sharing, and other elements necessary to create a roadmap to achieve better access and care delivery across systems.

There’s no greater gift to give than hope. This holiday season, our community has new reason to hope the start of the next decade will be marked by better collaboration in the name of improved mental and behavioral health services.

Parisi, Dane County’s Executive, may be reached by phone at 608-266-4114; by fax at 608-266-2643; by TTY by calling Wisconsin Relay 711 or by email at parisi@countyofdane.com

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