TROY — As it has been for virtually everyone, 2020 for the Tri-County Board of Recovery and Mental Health Services was a year of disruption and adapting, according to Brad Reed, director of Community Resource Development.
In the face of in-person meeting restrictions, the behavioral health system adapted by allowing for more telehealth options, including both telephone and videoconferencing for doctor visits, counseling and case management, Reed said.
“While initially disruptive, these temporary emergency changes may illuminate a silver lining. Because clients no longer had to travel to appointments or arrange for childcare or to be away from work, the no show rate for appointments actually improved during the pandemic. This has prompted officials to consider making may of the temporary changes permanent, to give mental health and addiction clients more options for treatment and recovery supports,” said Reed.
His report continues:
In late 2019 and early 2020, before anyone had any inkling of what was to come, the board was defining its three-year strategic plan to guide us in developing services throughout the three-county region. Item No. 1 in the strategic plan is to enhance access to services.
The Tri-County Board will invest in research, technology, and other resources to improve access to mental health and addiction services through:
• Mobilization of assessment, intake, treatment and case management services
• Enhanced application of telehealth and telemedicine
• Assisting providers with workforce development, recruitment and retention efforts to ensure appropriate licensure of staff, extended hours for services, and mobilization of services
This recipe turned out to be the right mix at the right time when the traditional model of outpatient treatment was upended by pandemic restrictions. The board continues to expend significant time and energy into making these systemwide enhancements permanent, efficient and robust.
Many in Tri-County’s service area are aware of the board’s efforts to build a new facility on County Road 25-A north of Troy, adjacent to Health Partners Free Clinic. That project, too, has changed — prior to, but ultimately consistent with, the new realities imposed by the coronavirus pandemic.
The agency had been planning to develop a single new facility dubbed “One Wellness Place” to include nine agencies related to behavioral and public health. As the project grew, they were disappointed to learn that the cost estimates were greatly exceeding their ability to responsibly fund the project. By September 2019, key partners had determined that they were unwilling to bear the increased costs, and the board began to pursue alternatives for a permanent board office and training space, Reed said.
Rather than centralizing services in a single facility, Reed said they are expanding the reach and access of service providers through telecommunications technology and a mobile workforce.
We can equip our provider agencies to provide services throughout our service area, and to reach people for whom travel to a central facility would be difficult or impossible. The pandemic has shown how vital it is to be able to meet client needs in many ways, and to be agile. In short, the behavioral health world is very different from what it was when we began the project in 2012, and it continues to change rapidly.
The revised building project is for a safe, modern and permanent administration and training center for Tri-County Board offices, including office space for Community Housing, Miami County Family and Children First Council, and NAMI Darke Miami and Shelby Counties, as well as “hoteling spaces” — flexible and unassigned offices where partner agencies may meet with clients on an as-needed basis. Key to this new facility is an easily accessible, attractive, and technologically modern training and meeting space. The board has continued to build a training program for behavioral health professionals to maintain their certifications and advance the workforce, and programs such as Crisis Intervention Team Academy and Companion Courses link law enforcement, other first responders to our behavioral health provider agencies, Reed said. Their current leased facility is straining to host these events safely and comfortably, he said.
The Tri-County Board has been planning for a permanent home for nearly a decade, and has judiciously set aside funds for a capital project. The board is confident the building project as now defined is within our means.
An estimate of probable costs based on the new specifications puts the costs at about $3.7 million. That number does not include furnishings, equipment, technology and other move-in costs. The board already owns 7-plus acres on County Road 25-A south of Lytle Road. The site was prepared for construction during the spring and summer of 2019, and is now considered build-ready. The architectural design is based on extensive studies of space, use and client flow needs. Board staff is working with the architects to finalize the designs and prepare for soliciting construction bids, which should be published in the coming weeks, Reed said.
The board is excited about these opportunities to modernize our behavioral health system and to continue to meet the mental health and addiction needs of our communities, where ever the clients may be.