While the COVID-19 pandemic forced the National Council to move its annual Hill Day online for the first time in the event’s 18-year history, Charles Ingogila, Council president and CEO was steadfast in his opening remarks on Tuesday.
“We cannot let the current realities derail our progress,” he said.
Ingoglia lauded attendees’ efforts to make necessary operational changes in response to the pandemic—from shifting to telehealth platforms and setting up assessment tents in parking lots to leaving no stone unturned in search of personal protective equipment so that residential services could be maintained.
“I have been blown away by the level of creativity, commitment and compassion that all of you have shown in the face of this crisis,” Ingoglia said. “And I have no doubt you have saved lives.”
Acknowledging current events that are driving tensions across the country, Ingoglia said the status quo is “simply unacceptable” and that the ways in which behavioral health are delivered must change so that the field emerges from this pandemic stronger and ready for crises to come. To that end, he said National Council has set a goal of implementing five policy changes:
- Fundamentally change the model for behavioral healthcare delivery, with Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics as a key. Council aims to have 500 CCBHCs operating across the country by 2025, serving nearly 3 million.
- Advocate for a $100 billion federal investment in addiction prevention, treatment and recovery services by 2030.
- Secure funding necessary to train enough workers to fully meet the demand for services by 2030.
- Work to ensure full compliance with federal parity laws by 2025.
- Train 4 million adults and 4.5 million public high school students in mental health first aid by 2025.
“If we are to thrive as a nation, if we are to address health disparities, I believe we can and must build a nation that recognizes the essential truth: There is no health without mental health,” Ingogila said. “Recovery is the expectation, not the exception.”
Also during Hill Day, National Council shared the results of a survey it conducted with community behavioral healthcare organizations. The results painted a picture of an industry feeling significant financial strain:
- 71% of respondents said they have had to cancel, reschedule or turn away patients over the past three months
- 38% said they know they do not have enough PPE to last two months, and an additional 16% are unsure
- 31% have not received any CARES Act relief funding; of those that did, 39% received less than $50,000
- 44% said they believe they can survive six months or less because of financial challenges
- Providers said on average they have lost 24.3% of their revenue