Mental Health Services Act Boot Camp Brings Partners and Collaborators Together
By Elisa Rocha Bupara
Nearly everything counties and collaborators need to know about the Mental Health Services Oversight and Accountability Commission’s Innovation process was featured at a Boot Camp presentation in Sacramento last month. About 230 people attended the conference.
The presentation – Mental Health Services Act Boot Camp – took place April 23 and 24 in Sacramento. The California Institute for Behavioral Health Solutions (CIBHS), the County Behavioral Health Directors Association (CBHDA) and the Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) co-sponsored the two-day event.
“The primary purpose of the MHSA Boot Camp is to provide education and information to those county staff who work with the MHSA,” said Ahmadreza Bahrami, Division Manager in the Fresno County Behavioral Health Department. “There are a number of different components to MHSA, various rules and regulations and the MHSA has been evolving over the past 10 years so there is a need to remain abreast of changes.”
Bahrami was part of the Boot Camp planning committee. The Boot Camp is in its second year. The Committee worked with the CIBHS, CBHDA, DHCS and other county partners and representatives to identify topics and forums, which would help attendees, better understand various aspects of the MHSA.
The Commission’s Dr. Sharmil Shah and Grace Reedy presented the Innovation Project Submission Process: A Toolkit for Counties.
“The Mental Health Services Act provides a unique opportunity with $100 million a year to consider new and different ways to address county challenges,” Shah said. “We are not aware of any other state that offers this sort of funding opportunity. We encourage counties to think collaboratively about their challenges, as they may be more alike than different. Innovation funds provide the opportunity to address these challenges collectively, as some of the counties have done in the Technology Suite Project and Early Psychosis Project.”
Innovation regulations require that projects either introduce a new practice or approach to the mental health system, make a change to an existing practice or apply a community-driven promising practice or approach that has been successful in a non-mental health system to a mental health system and lastly participation in a housing program designed to stabilize a person’s housing situation while also providing supportive services, Shah added.
“We want to help you all be successful in presenting your Innovation projects to the Commission,” Shah said.
The primary purpose of the Innovation Project is to increase access and quality of care to underserved groups, promote interagency and community collaboration and to increase access to mental health services.
Grace Reedy focused her part of the presentation on the Innovation Toolkit.
“This toolkit was developed over a year ago with several volunteer counties in an effort to improve and streamline the overall process of Innovation at both the staff and county levels,” Reedy said. “This toolkit is now posted on the Commission’s website for county use.”
Shah added that Innovation funds could be used on virtually any aspect of the mental health system.
“We also understand that innovation can be difficult and risky, especially when you are talking about our vulnerable populations,” she said. “But we want to emphasize that there is no such thing as a failed project. There is learning in failing and these funds allow counties to try something new and share what they learned, which may be helpful to other counties with similar challenges.”
Organizers said that 60-70 percent of the people in attendance indicated it was their first time at the Boot Camp and many others were new to the process so the Commission’s presentation would be very beneficial for them.
The Toolkit presentation included how to design an Innovation Project, the MHSOAC Innovation Review Process, a recommended template and recommendations on how to present a project to the Commission.
Shah emphasized that counties must include input from communities, including stakeholders, consumers, family members and others.
Reedy and Shah also discussed the Commission’s Innovation Dashboard and Innovation Incubator. The Dashboard includes the total number of plans currently calendared, number of plans in draft phase and the approximate number of days it takes for a project to be calendared for the Commission’s review. It also includes projects approved and dollar amounts for each project for the last five fiscal years. The Innovation Incubator’s goal is to transform and improve the efficiency of the mental and behavioral health system to become more consumer‐centric and data‐driven, while focusing on community engagement, quality improvement, and capacity building.
Dr. Brian Sala, the Commission’s Deputy Director for Evaluation and Program Operations, also participated in the Boot Camp, providing an overview of the Commission’s various programs and projects and highlighted the Commission’s emphasis on ways to support county engagement, collaborative learning and capacity building at the local and community levels.
Doris Estremera of San Mateo County attended the Boot Camp. “This is my second year attending the MHSA Boot Camp and as the MHSA coordinator I find this opportunity invaluable for all staff involved,” she said. “There is a lot at stake as we serve some of our most vulnerable culturally diverse communities. As counties working in unison toward a statewide transformation of our behavioral health systems, the Boot Camp helps us stay up-to-date on what feels like an ever-evolving legislation.”
Estremera added that she would like future MHSA Boot Camps to address how to better leverage the Commission’s statewide initiatives and have more discussions on best practices across fiscal, administration, programs and particularly on how to meaningfully engage culturally diverse communities in MHSA processes.