Hope for Tomorrow Behavioral Health Report Endorsed

The South Carolina Medical Association (SCMA) Board of Trustees and the Alliance for a Healthier South Carolina (Alliance) have formally endorsed the South Carolina Institute of Medicine and Public Health Behavioral Health Taskforce’s final report, “Hope for Tomorrow: The Collective Approach for Transforming South Carolina’s Behavioral Health Systems.”

As the voice of the medical profession in the state, the purpose of SCMA is to improve the health of South Carolinians by promoting the highest quality of medical care in South Carolina through advocacy on the behalf of patients and physicians, physician education, the promotion of high ethical standards and activities that enhance medical practice. Meeting in November, the SMCA Board of Trustees approved a motion stating that SCMA supports the IMPH Behavioral Health Taskforce’s final work product and recommendations.

“As physicians, we see the personal costs of behavioral health disorders everyday on our and their families,” said Christopher Yeakel, MD, FAAP and SCMA Ninth District Trustee. “If the recommendations put forth by the taskforce in this report are implemented, we can achieve a system in which all residents of South Carolina will have equal access to quality behavioral health services regardless of their individual means or where they live in the state.”

The Alliance is a volunteer collaboration of more than 50 diverse organizations across the state, whose senior leaders are working together on coordinating action to achieve healthier bodies, minds and communities for all while reducing the future cost of care. In endorsing the full report, the Alliance prioritized three recommendations (#1, #3 and #4 in the report):

o Support the expansion of access to outpatient behavioral health services around the state;
o Develop a network of Mobile Crisis Units; and
o Create short-stay crisis stabilization facilities across the state for patients experiencing a behavioral health emergency.

“The Alliance for a Healthier South Carolina is pleased to endorse the Hope for Tomorrow report,” shared Bruce A. Snyder, MD, chair of the Alliance. “Behavioral health illnesses affect many of our fellow South Carolina residents, impacting not only their lives, but the lives of their families, friends and co-workers. All of us in some fashion are touched by behavioral health illnesses in our state. We understand the need for expanded services and support in our communities to help treat all individuals with needs to help them continue or return to fulfilling and productive lives. We applaud the report and appreciate the focus it brings on this extremely important issue.”

Many communities are already committed to addressing behavioral health challenges and have placed a priority on transforming systems. Spartanburg County was recently awarded the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation 2015 Culture of Health Prize. The prize honors communities for working to ensure that everyone in their community has the opportunity to live a longer, healthier and more productive life and comes with a $25,000 award. The funds will be used in the behavioral health focus area .

According to Renee Romberger, Vice President Community Health Policy and Strategy at Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System, “The Behavioral Health Taskforce Report is an important roadmap that is helping drive local decisions and investments. So when Spartanburg received a $25,000 Culture of Health prize gift from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, we chose to commit those funds to case management that assists homeless Veterans in securing supportive housing, as defined in one of the recommendations in the report.”

The 20 recommendations outlined in the report are the culmination of 18 months of work by a statewide taskforce of over 60 public and private behavioral health providers, researchers and advocates guided by a 20-member Steering Committee. IMPH convened these stakeholders to identify the most significant challenges in our behavioral health systems and provide actionable, evidence-based and cost-effective strategies to provide better care and access to behavioral health services for residents of South Carolina.

Chaired by the executive director of IMPH, Kester S. Freeman, Jr., the taskforce created a bold vision for behavioral health in South Carolina based on two focal points: the need for crisis stabilization services available at all hours and the need for an improved, more accessible system of chronic care management. The vision depicts a future in which all residents of South Carolina will have equal access to behavioral health services. The actionable recommendations resulting from this vision outline a collective approach for transforming South Carolina’s behavioral health systems.

Since the release of the report, IMPH formed an Implementation Leadership Council (ILC) to track progress towards recommendations and remove barriers to ensure success. The ILC has identified the development of crisis intervention services as its first priority.

“We appreciate the endorsements of the SCMA and the Alliance for a Healthier South Carolina,” said Mr. Freeman. “With the continued active involvement of mobilized stakeholders to support the implementation of recommendations developed by the taskforce, South Carolina can have a behavioral health care system as accessible as care for physical illnesses, such as a heart attack or trauma. Physical illnesses do not follow a 9-to-5 schedule, and neither do behavioral health conditions.”

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© 2015 South Carolina Institute of Medicine and Public Health