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'Abriendo Caminos' at CLUES

This is a guest article from Liz Franklin, MSW, LICSW, Associate Director of Behavioral Health at CLUES

The last two years have been full of uncertainty and change for Behavioral Health staff at CLUES for many of the same reasons as others living in the Twin Cities/the United States/the world. We have also had a unique dimension impacting us because we have been working to implement a radical new model for our behavioral health services throughout this time.

Most of my career has been spent in roles that included helping Latinx community members access mental health services, whether that was as a Spanish-speaking elementary school family liaison, Children’s Mental Health Case Manager, or school-based mental health therapist. Supporting Latinx parents with the process of figuring out what might help their child, their family or them self to grow and heal was just the first step to access services. Next we had to wade through the options available based on their insurance coverage; the options taking into account their need and right to a bilingual, culturally affirming provider; and then which of the remaining provider options had a decently short waiting list.

This was hard enough for outpatient therapy. It became more and more challenging as kids or adults needed services like psychiatry, mental health skills training, or mental health case management, as the starting list of options was short, bilingual provider options were few, and the access for folks without insurance was either limited or nonexistent.

Since its start, CLUES’ behavioral health leaders have been committed to keeping services accessible for Latinx community members regardless of their insurance coverage. They have also tried to build new programs based on emerging needs in the community. In recent years, the financial realities of standard reimbursement options for mental health and chemical health services caused us to operate the department on very tight margins. The difficulty of fitting our department operations into what insurance companies decide to pay us and the grant funding we can access for folks without insurance limited our ability to create new programs even when the need for them was clear.

After a couple of years of research and comparing clinic models, our department and organizational leadership came to believe the Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic (CCBHC) model could help us both increase access to services and increase our financial stability. I described the model as “radical” above, and I meant that. Clinics that become CCBHCs guarantee they will provide ten core behavioral health programs and operate with processes that center on care coordination and community empowerment.

In exchange, CCBHCs operate with flipped funding models. That’s to say, they determine how much it costs to operate with a functional clinical team and administrative structure, calculate the hourly rate to operate with that structure, and then receive that hourly rate for services through a combination of state and federal payments. They get paid the actual cost of operating well instead of having to figure out how to make do within the constraints of traditional reimbursement options. Radical, right?

We are now two years into the process of building out the required programs and processes to become a CCBHC, with a target certification application date on the horizon. We continue to hire for direct service, supervisor, and administrative roles. These hires will help us launch or expand the services I talked about being so hard for Latinx community members to access above, as well as help us work toward near-immediate access to behavioral health services at CLUES.

All this is to say, we have really exciting things in the works at CLUES that will change the behavioral health landscape for Latinos across the Twin Cities. We are creating new pathways (Abriendo Caminos) to healing for individuals and families. Come join us on this path!

Openings and job descriptions can be found here: Apply now! 


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