Chris Schulz Published

Federal Funding Helps Expand State’s Mental Health System

Stethoscopes are pictured in an intensive care unit.

A mental health provider in the North Central region is the latest to receive federal funding to expand its services and work towards a federal certification.

Valley HealthCare System of North Central West Virginia was recently awarded a four year, $1 million grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) as part of a Department of Health and Human Services initiative.

Valley Health CEO Brian Sharp says the money will help expand mental health services in Marion, Monongalia, Preston and Taylor counties as part of the state’s Comprehensive Behavioral Health Clinic program.

“This latest expansion of the community mental health model into this more, more expansive, better funded system could be a large part of the cure for the problems that we have with mental health in America,” he said.

West Virginia currently has 13 Comprehensive Behavioral Health Clinics, a model designed to ensure access to coordinated comprehensive behavioral health care.

“This is a kind of a logical expansion of the Kennedy era community mental health center bill that created the community mental health centers that exists throughout the nation today,” Sharp said. “This expands our services, it gives us the money to have things like 24 hour mobile crisis, where we go out to people having mental health emergencies, and try and stabilize them where they are, keep them out of the hospital, get them into the appropriate level of care. Within the next few hours.”

Sharp said that the money will also help Valley Health meet new state requirements. Earlier this year, the West Virginia legislature passed SB 247, requiring the development and implementation of a statewide funding system for Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics (CCBHC).

“There are currently six other grant recipients in the state,” Sharp said. “Some of them got their grants as far back as about four years ago. Others got theirs two years ago, and we were the only startup grant awarded in the state this year. So there’s a total of seven of us.”

Sharp is hopeful that an expanded system will have broad-reaching impacts across West Virginian society.

“There’s data that says this is at least part of the right way to go so that people with mental health and substance use disorders and intellectual disabilities and other chronic severe problems like that, get the care they need,” Sharp said. “The idea is this is something that improves mental health, physical health, and the overall health and well-being of our communities, that they’ll function better, the police will be not so tied up with mental health emergencies. It’s just a really good model overall.”