Dane County Executive Joe Parisi joined community partners and mental health advocates recently to celebrate the opening of Dane County’s Behavioral Health Resource Center (BHRC), a new one-stop resource for mental and behavioral health care in the county.

The BHRC will bridge private and public mental and behavioral health care providers — making it easier for patients, their families, and even providers to navigate care and advocate for loved ones. It is believed to be the first of its kind in the nation.

To address the need to better coordinate care across health care systems, County Executive Parisi and mental health care providers unveiled plans for the Behavioral Health Resource Center last November. The project is funded solely by Dane County, at more than $1 million a year. The County Executive and Supervisor Sheila Stubbs took the rare step of amending the county budget to add those dollars, reflecting the priority and community need for this new one-stop resource center.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has put an overwhelming strain on many in our community. We know it’s a challenging time for those struggling with mental illness and addiction, and we’re seeing an increase in suicides compared to last year,” said County Executive Parisi. “Through the Behavioral Health Resource Center, we hope to coordinate care and improve outcomes for Dane County residents struggling with mental and behavioral health and addiction. We’re excited to start providing this unique, one-stop service countywide.”

The BHRC will be run by Dane County and designed after a model that has been effective with the Dane County Aging and Disability Resource Center, providing a direct link to seniors and those with disabilities to available community services. It also reflects insight from the Recovery Coalition of Dane County. The BHRC will be led by a Social Work Supervisor and staffed with clinically-licensed Behavioral Health Resource Specialists, Case Managers, and a Peer Support Coordinator.

BHRC staff will stay up-to-date on behavioral and mental health service delivery changes in Dane County. Their knowledge will be used to inform county residents seeking information on how to access care regardless of the system they are in—public or privately funded. The BHRC will be rooted in integrated relationships with all providers and systems in the county, creating a mutually beneficial resource and referral exchange, thereby making a significant leap forward towards the vision of integrated care coordinated through a single access point.

“The Behavioral Health Resource Center represents a critical milestone in enhancing behavioral health care in our community at a critical time,” said Beth Lonergan, Director of Behavioral Health Services at UW Health University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics. “Reducing potential barriers to access through a central entry point enables real person-centered care with the right services, at the right time, in the right place.”

BHRC staff will be responsible for directing people to the right level of care at the right time and for assuring a seamless transfer of care between two entities, where the referring service provider assures a person is engaged with a provider. Staff will identify and mitigate barriers to people accessing care. Using a common assessment tool intended to be accepted across systems, BHRC staff will serve people across the lifespan while respecting native languages and cultures. A person-centered approach to care coordination will be used, including the use of peers to walk alongside people and provide a more supportive experience.

“We know that access to mental health care is more important than ever,” said Sarah Valencia, Director of Population Health and Addiction Services at UnityPoint Health – Meriter. “Prioritizing and growing these services is essential for our community now and into the future.”

In order to support this work, the Behavioral Health Resource Center Workgroup, comprised of representatives from behavioral health care providers, insurers, and other stakeholders, has come together to establish and formalize relationships across systems. Representatives from each of the following agencies are on the BHRC Workgroup: Access Community Health, Chrysalis, Group Health Cooperative, Journey Mental Health Center, NAMI Dane County, Quartz, SSM Health, Tellurian, UnityPoint Health, UW Health and UW Medical Foundation, Veterans Administration, and the Wisconsin Department of Corrections. This cross-section is an unprecedented partnership across the private and public sectors to improve access to behavioral health services.

The BHRC is located at 818 West Badger Road, sharing the same building with other Dane County Department of Human Services programs like the Community Restorative Court, Joining Forces for Families, and Immigration Affairs. It is located next to Centro Hispano, across the street from the Madison College South Campus, and near the South Transfer Point for Madison Metro.

Dane County’s Behavioral Health Resource Center is scheduled to begin operations in November. Hours of operation will initially be from 7am to 7pm, with navigational support available outside normal business hours. The building will remain physically closed for the foreseeable future due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Dane County hopes to have its 24/7 service component operational in early 2021.

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