By Natalie Johnson
Two health organizations have recently been awarded funding to provide mental health services to residents in the region.
Okanogan Behavioral HealthCare (OBHC) is slated to receive $453,000 in federal funding through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic Expansion Grant.
The group plans to use the funding for substance or opioid abuse disorder treatment including counseling, case management, education and supportive housing. It will also go toward Highland Clubhouse, a facility for people recovering from substance abuse, living with mental health issues or with developmental disabilities.
Carolbelle Branch, director of communications for Okanogan Behavioral HealthCare, said the organization hasn’t yet decided exactly how the money will be spent.
The grant is for a period of two years, and makes up 2.5% of OBHC’s budget during that time.
“We are especially grateful for this funding because it comes at a time when we are seeing increased need for behavioral health services, especially with the added stressors of COVID-19,” said Dennis Rabidou, chair of the OBHC board, in a statement. “It will help us not only accommodate the increased need; it will help us improve our ability to serve our most vulnerable community members.”
The regional North Central Accountable Community of Health, which covers Chelan, Douglas, Grant and Okanogan counties, will share a portion of a $2 million grant to Washington’s nine Accountable Communities of Health from Cambia Health Solutions for mental health services.
“Cambia’s support will help the ACHs address the behavioral health crisis in rural Washington,” said Linda Evans Parlette, executive director of the North Central ACH, in a statement. “While the nine ACHs are unique, we share a commitment to community-driven, multi-sector solutions to improve the health and wellbeing of communities across Washington.”
Cambia Health Solutions, a Portland, Oregon-based health care company, has granted a total of $11.5 million to rural mental health in Idaho, Oregon, Utah and Washington.
In an interview with the Methow Valley News, Evans Parlette said she and other executive directors of ACHs in the state were surprised when Cambia staff contacted them about the awards in November 2020.
“It was an absolute shock,” she said.
The money came to Cambia through a part of the Affordable Care Act – the act required the federal government to pay private insurers to mitigate their risk when selling to previously uninsured people, referred to as “risk corridor” payments.
The federal government didn’t make the payments between 2014 and 2016, but in April 2020, due to a ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court, Cambia announced it expected to receive a payment and that it would donate the entire sum to “address social isolation and related mental health issues brought on by COVID-19 in rural communities,” according to an April news release.
The money is intended to go toward rural areas, Evans Parlette noted. Eight of Washington’s nine ACHs will receive $245,000, with King County’s ACH receiving $40,000.
The North Central ACH, with input from providers in its region, has decided to put the money toward youth, but hasn’t yet decided on a firm strategy, Evans Parlette said.
“If you take $245,000 and break it up across four counties that’s not very much, and how do we measure results?” she said. “We haven’t landed yet, but we need to make a decision by the end of the month on exactly what our plan is.”