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Expanding Access to Behavioral Health Urgent Care

Grants to Massachusetts Emergency Service Providers
to Improve Urgent Response for Behavioral Health

Agency Type:

Foundation / Corporation

Funding Source:

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Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation

Deadline Date:

08/22/18 5:00 PM


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Grants to Massachusetts emergency service program providers to improve the delivery or urgent behavioral health care services within the state, with an emphasis on low-income and vulnerable populations. The purpose of this grant is to identify current gaps in the system and improve linkages in the continuum of care.

Program Overview and Goal:

While there are providers across Massachusetts engaged in delivering urgent behavioral health care services to MassHealth members on a 24/7/365 basis, most agree that the system – Emergency Services Program (ESP) – is not adequate for the high need that persists, and that more can be done to improve timely access and continuity of care. There is no common definition or standard model of behavioral health urgent care (BHUC), and no standardized models for measures of success available to practices. However, there are indications that the current system could benefit from 1) better integration between ESPs and a wider array of community-based providers and partners that have an impact on a patient’s urgent and ongoing behavioral health needs; 2) tighter linkages between ESPs, community-based providers, and hospitals to help control avoidable ED utilization and ensure longer-term care management; 3) enhanced capacity to address co-occurring conditions, and 4) wider visibility and awareness of the availability of behavioral health urgent care services to help address challenges in outpatient behavioral health access. Many people with behavioral health needs still experience access challenges, particularly following a crisis stabilization encounter when timely engagement and ongoing care management is required.

The existing ESP model for immediate crisis stabilization and assessment has existed in the Commonwealth for more than 30 years, and was revamped by the Massachusetts Behavioral Health Partnership (MBHP) in 2009, in partnership with MassHealth and the Department of Mental Health (DMH) to better serve MassHealth members with mental health issues, substance use disorders, and co-occurring conditions. While the 2009 reforms improved the system, the need for access to timely comprehensive behavioral health care in Massachusetts persists -- particularly in light of the opioid crisis. Conditions dictate the need for further enhancements to BHUC that build upon the current ESPs and help to ensure patients receive appropriate next level of care following a crisis.

The BCBSMA Foundation will fund a one-year planning grant for behavioral health providers currently operating as ESPs to build upon their existing models in order to provide more comprehensive urgent care services for adults, as well appropriate and timely follow-up care and ongoing treatments. The Foundation’s goal is to determine and address the facilitators and the barriers to providing a more seamless, expeditious, comprehensive, and effective continuum of care for the greatest number of adults with mental health, substance use, and co-occurring needs.

The Foundation will work with grantees to develop a shared vision for BHUC improvements and identify the steps needed to develop and promulgate promising practices, and advance the implementation of a strong behavioral health urgent care system in the Commonwealth. This planning year will support programmatic, operating, data management and communications expenses for six programs. The Foundation will use this time for exploration, assessment and documentation to help reveal success factors, barriers and challenges, and opportunities for improvement. The planning year will inform implementation plans for a subsequent multi-year grant program.


There are currently 21 Emergency Services Programs (ESPs) catchment areas covering every city and town in the Commonwealth. In 2016, there were nearly 120,000 encounters provided to individuals of all ages through the ESPs. Three quarters of the individuals served were adults, and a quarter were children and youth below age 20. While most of the services provided for youth took place in the community or at home, 75% of the ESP encounters for adults were provided in hospital EDs. As a result of ESP services in the ED, 63% of adults were referred for community-based outpatient services. However, it is uncertain how many of these patients followed through with the referrals, how long the wait time was between the referral and first appointment, or the support services available to patients to ensure a continuum of care for all of their behavioral health needs, as well as any medical conditions that might impact their mental health or addiction status. It is also known that not all ESPs are able to provide substance use disorder or co-occurring condition treatment.

The absence of such information about the nature and quality of referrals and ongoing services, and the lack of substance use disorder treatment across the entire ESP network, reveals the need for further attention to and investment in bolstering the state’s behavioral health urgent care capabilities.

Individual paths to recovery differ, treatment plans and supportive services for mental and substance use disorders should be tailored to fit individual patients’ needs, and for many people with behavioral health issues the most effective approach often involves a combination of counseling and medication. Partnerships with appropriate clinical and human services organizations help to ensure a less fractured system, and recovery. communication that detract from timely quality care, patient engagement

Foundation’s Proposed Framework:

The BCBSMA Foundation wishes to support and enhance the state’s existing behavioral health urgent care system as currently provided through the ESPs, to help ensure coordinated services across the continuum of care for people with significant mental health needs, substance use disorders, and co-occurring conditions. Based on the Foundation’s understanding of the existing system, research on other initiatives in the state and around the country, and feedback from the Foundation’s Behavioral Health Advisory Group, the following is a high-level vision for a BHUC model for adults that could fulfill several objectives for enhanced services, scalability and sustainability. The Foundation is committed to working with the grantees to collaboratively develop a vision that may include the following attributes, and other elements cited by the grantees as essential:

-Assured crisis care for adults with mental health issues, substance use disorders, and co-occurring conditions
-Comprehensive onsite clinical and peer support for mental health and substance use disorder services
-Substantive community partnerships that ensure timely and appropriate next level of care and ongoing care management
-Same-day access for acute, but not emergent behavioral health episodes
-Culturally competent care and linguistic capacity
-Diversion from hospital EDs
-Localized care, delivered in the community and close to patients’ homes

Essential Proposal Elements:

The key features below describe an enhanced BHUC that augments, rather than competes with the existing ESP system in Massachusetts. The goal of this planning year is to work with grantees to develop a shared vision for a revised model that addresses the gaps in the current system, ensures a comprehensive continuum of care, encourages innovation through technology and expanded partnerships, and promotes the development of a project plan that describes implementation following the planning period. Successful proposals will address and expand upon the Foundation’s above-mentioned framework.

The Foundation will accept proposals from existing ESPs (referred to henceforth as “Providers”)
-Who describe in detail their current model for providing immediate 24/7/365 access to crisis stabilization and assessment to adults with mental and substance use disorders, and co-occurring conditions;
-Whose current programs include linkages with other essential community-based resources and institutions to ensure triage and access to timely referral to the appropriate next level of care;
-Who describe the necessary enhancements to their current programs to provide an array of on-site services, including medication-assisted treatment for substance addiction, on-site or on-call psychiatric prescribing, and strategies to expedite timely access to an affiliated community resource for both outpatient and in-patient treatments, including the provision of ongoing care management and support services;
-That serve a clearly defined geographic area through both a specific facility that provides 24/7/365 services, and mobile services “anchored” by a community-based Provider;
-Who describe how they will address diversions from avoidable ED utilization and law enforcement encounters;
-Who describe the demographics of the population served, provisions for linguistic diversity, any programmatic attributes that are unique to your program based on population and/or geography;
-That draw upon experiences and lessons learned to candidly describe deficits in the current system and how a planning year investment would advance their capabilities as a BHUC center;
-Are able to capture, analyze and report data; utilize data for continuous program improvement, and to inform opportunities for regulatory and policy changes that reduce barriers to providing BH urgent care and ongoing services/treatment.

Foundation Activities and Technical Assistance:
-The Foundation will retain the necessary technical assistance resources to work with grantees to facilitate a shared vision for an enhanced BHUC.
-Grantees will participate in learning communities hosted by the Foundation to share best practices, gain technical assistance from external resources, and identify opportunities for research and policy initiatives.
-The Foundation will convene key state officials and experts from outside of Massachusetts to help inform the work of the grantees, as well as the broader behavioral health crisis response community.
-The Foundation-contracted resources will assist the grantees in developing a logic model and appropriate planning year measures and reporting requirements to inform an evaluation plan for the subsequent multi-year grant program.
-Grantees will host site visits by the Foundation staff.

Foundational selection criteria for these grants include:
-The degree to which proposed efforts focus on low-income and vulnerable populations in Massachusetts.
-Evidence of services for adults with mental health, substance use and co-occurring disorders.
-Demonstrated organizational leadership support across all partners.
-A commitment to and vision for expanding the current model.
-Strong and dedicated project management capacity.
-Strong and dedicated data management capacity.
-Strength of the internal evaluation capacity and attention to performance management, including the logic model and data collection, management and analysis capacity to assess the program effectiveness, impact and improvements.
-Collective accountability for the success or failure of funded activities across all partners.
-Statement of how the program helps to advance the efficacy of behavioral health urgent care as a vehicle for achieving access to care for low-income and vulnerable patients.
-Quality and clarity of program objectives and budget.

GrantWatch ID#:

GrantWatch ID#: 183986

Estimated Size of Grant:

Organizations meet the above-mentioned criteria may request up to $200,000 for a year.

Term of Contract:

The grant period is December 31, 2018 to December 31, 2019.

Additional Eligibility Criteria:

Eligible Applicants and Selection Criteria:
-Eligible applicants are Emergency Service Program (ESP) providers to help ensure that enhanced and integrated behavioral health urgent care is not provided outside of the current system of emergency and care coordination.
-ESP providers that are serving several different geographic areas of the Commonwealth may submit more than one proposal, but will only be eligible to receive one grant.
-Providers must describe a current or proposed clinical model that provides mental health services, substance use disorders, and co-occurring conditions.
-Applicants must have a relationship with a hospital, or a plan to develop a partnership that helps to ensure appropriate ED utilization and behavioral health inpatient treatment.
-Applicants must have onsite services or referral system for comprehensive continuum of care/care management, including partnerships with primary care and medical specialists.

Pre-Application Information:

Deadlines and Submission Requirements
-Webinar: June 22,2018
-Full proposals due: August 22, 2018, 5:00 p.m.
-Review period, site visits and interviews: August 27 to October 11, 2018
-Grantees notified: December 20, 2018
-Grant Period: December 31, 2018 to December 31, 2019

Contact Information:

Before starting your grant application, please review the funding source's website listed below for updates/changes/addendums/conferences/LOIs.

Apply Online:

Program related questions:
Celeste Lee, Senior Director of Grantmaking

Technical and logistical questions related to the online portal:
Evelyn Monteiro, Administrative and Grants Coordinator

URL for Full Text (RFP):

Geographic Focus:

USA: Massachusetts