The Behavioral Health + Economics Network (BHECON) is a vehicle for uniting diverse stakeholders in advancing policy reforms to strengthen state behavioral health delivery systems. Beginning in 2016, the National Council for Behavioral Health partnered with its State Association members in Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, Missouri, and Pennsylvania to kick-off Year One BHECON activities. Made possible through the generous support of Alkermes and Genoa, BHECON identified policy barriers and solutions needed to establish secure coverage and access to a comprehensive continuum of care for people with mental health and addiction disorders.
Through this series of widely attended forums, BHECON served as a launching pad for key policy changes needed to protect and expand access to the full array of treatments and supports for the residents of these states. Forum participants explored a range of federal and state policy issues, including evidence-based outpatient care, care coordination and integration, jail diversion and reentry services, access to medications, supportive services such as housing, behavioral health workforce shortages, and much more.
To support these policy initiatives, BHECON worked with researchers at the Schaeffer Center for Health Policy & Economics at the University of Southern California to develop a series of data chart books for each state outlining the prevalence and impact of untreated mental illness in the states, from which key data points were translated into useful advocacy materials to support policy reforms.
In the spring, the National Council for Behavioral Health hosted the first National BHECON Forum at its national conference in Seattle, where advocates from across the country gathered to discuss common themes arising from states’ BHECON forums, future directions in behavioral health and economics research, and effective techniques for translating data into advocacy through storytelling. They learned about the emerging issues for behavioral health and the potential regulatory and legislative solutions to these issues as the industry moves toward value-driven health care and heard from colleagues about innovative solutions explored during last year’s BHECON events. In addition, participants had the opportunity to discuss and share successful advocacy tactics they used to affect policy change in their states, learned about new tools they could employ in their advocacy work, and shared ideas for advocacy campaigns to advance their policy priorities during the coming year.