Behavioral Health Council set to make recommendations to governor, legislators, courts

By Ruth Brown, Idaho Reports

A task force assembled to address mental health issues in the state said Tuesday it is set to make recommendations to all three branches of government.

The Idaho Behavioral Health Council assembled a strategic action plan for 2021-2024, and it covers a broad range of issues including substance use disorders, juvenile and adult mental health, housing, and the role of courts and corrections in behavioral health.

The Behavioral Health Council approved the priorities listed in the plan and a variety of suggestions and recommendations were included, coming from the Council’s workgroups. The workgroups were made up a combination of stakeholders and providers.

The council includes representatives from all three branches of government and stakeholders, after Gov. Brad Little issued an executive order in 2020 for the assembly of the behavioral health council. 

The Idaho Supreme Court also issued an order and proclamation in 2020 supporting the issue and the Legislature unanimously passed a concurrent resolution in 2020 supporting the development of a strategic plan. 

The council is tasked with overseeing the creation of a strategic plan and “the implementation of the approved statewide strategic plan, ensuring an effective, efficient, recovery oriented behavioral healthcare system for all Idahoans.”

In a Tuesday meeting, Idaho Department of Health and Welfare Director Dave Jeppesen said he plans to meet and provide the plan to Litte, Idaho Supreme Court Chief Justice Richard Bevan, and legislative leadership this month. 

The three branches of government will review the recommendations and discuss how to move forward with potentially implementing the plans.  

Recommendations

Recommendations listed include funding a continuum of care for public behavioral health services. The group also recommends flexible funding to ensure seriously emotionally disturbed youth are supported by child and family teams.

Other recommendations include: 

  • Ensure behavioral health services are available in K-12 schools.
  • Transition treatment for mental health court participants from Idaho Department of Health and Welfare Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) teams to the private provider network.
  • Increase mental health care for pregnant women, especially those with substance use disorder issues.
  • Develop a workforce plan to increase the number of licensed and/or certified behavioral health professionals in Idaho.

Youth-related recommendations

Other recommendations include those around adverse childhood experiences, commonly called ACEs. The plan includes suggested calls for a review of data on Idaho ACEs. 

It recommends that the state ensure education and outreach on adverse childhood experiences, includes content about the importance of positive childhood experiences as a tool for mitigating impacts.

Other recommendations include: 

  • Engage providers in collecting ACEs data and data on positive childhood experiences for children.  
  • Provide a report on Idaho ACEs data on a biannual basis for community partners to use.
  • Expand behavioral health services to youth in out-of-home placements, foster care and adoptive family homes. 
  • Increase residential treatment options in Idaho for youth to receive care with a preference for services in-state.
  • Develop and implement a crisis response system model for youth.

Substance use treatment recommendations

The council included a variety of recommendations around substance use disorders and the criminal justice system. It also recommended increasing  community awareness  and  education  on  behavioral  health  to  reduce stigma around mental  health  and  substance  use disorder.

Other recommendations include: 

  • Review and draft or amend statutes and rules to promote earlier engagement of individuals in the justice system with behavioral health treatment needs.
  • Increase local and accessible recovery services and support for individuals in recovery.

The strategic action plan recommends funding sources such as applying for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration System of Care (SOC) Expansion and Sustainability grants, but ultimately some funding and appropriation of these resources would be left to the Idaho Legislature. 

An implementation plan will be developed by October 1, according to the action plan. The full list of recommendations with details is available at the Idaho Behavioral Health Council’s website.  

Clarification on July 9: This post has been updated from its original version to offer further clarity on recommendations in the plan.

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