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What California’s Behavioral Health Agencies Are Seeing During COVID-19

BHA recently sat down with Le Ondra Clark Harvey, Director of Policy and Legislative Affairs for the California Council of Community Behavioral Health Agencies (CBHA), to discuss how COVID-19 is impacting providers on the ground.

The key takeaway: “Well, like many healthcare industries, the COVID-19 pandemic threatens the very fiber of the behavioral healthcare delivery system, and in turn, the safety net that provides critical behavioral health services to hundreds of thousands of Californians, who our members serve. Nonprofit contractors have had to pivot really quickly to provide services in a different fashion, primarily via telehealth, and this has had wide-reaching impacts on business models of the agencies we represent, from the financial structure, to simply how services are delivered.”

CBHA conducted a survey of its members and found the following:

  • 89% of respondents cited a lack of personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • 74% said they have fewer staff
  • 52% of members said they’re seeing fewer clients
  • 10% have laid off staff; 14% are planning to lay off staff or institute furloughs

These are really alarming statistics, but it’s the reality for our members.” 

What’s the solution? “Well, simply everyone needs funding, and as soon as possible. We’ve been advocating at the state level, for counties to work with our agencies who contract with them, for as much flexibility as possible in the contracting relationships and arrangements that they have, to allow for more immediate cash flow.”

Running out of time: “The implications are dire. If our members do not receive the support to keep their businesses in operation, in order to serve clients, we’ll have a worse workforce shortage problem than we had before the pandemic. The pandemic is creating conditions that could possibly lead to more individuals who will need our members’ services… So we need a well-funded and supported behavioral health safety net system that’s prepared to deal with the aftermath of this pandemic. And if not, as you very well know, Sheree, many will turn to overburden hospital emergency rooms across the state, nearly just shifting the pressure from one part of the healthcare delivery system to another.” 

Parting thought: I’m crossing my fingers, maybe I’m naive there, but I am hopeful. And when I looked at what my members are doing… how they provide services, I know that there’s hope there, I know that we can survive this, but we do need the cashflow, we do need the finances, we need the support in order to continue to provide the services.”

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