$200k Grant Supports Urgent Behavioral Health Care

By: Alan Pollock

Topics: Health


When a person is experiencing a mental health crisis, it can sometimes take hours to get professional help to the scene. Thanks to a grant from the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation, Bay Cove Human Services will be providing additional staff to respond to after-hours crises between Hyannis and Provincetown.

Under its contract with MassHealth, Bay Cove is required to provide emergency services to people all over Cape Cod within a one-hour window, Bay Cove Vice President of Mental Health Services Carley Lubarsky said. But because their operation is based in Hyannis, doing so has been logistically impossible sometimes. When people on the Lower Cape experience an urgent mental health or substance use incident, it can sometimes be two or three hours “before a clinician can reach them,” she said.

The Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation awarded Bay Cove a $200,000 grant to support the hiring of two new full-time clinicians and a “certified peer specialist” for the opening of a satellite office and mobile crisis team serving communities between Hyannis and Provincetown.

Bay Cove is currently recruiting professionals who already live on the Lower Cape and will be able to respond quickly. Their goal is to have the positions filled sometime next month.

“We’re also looking at having a ‘landing spot,’ which we don’t have right now,” she said. The office space will provide a home base for clinicians working on this part of the Cape.

The goal, Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation President Audrey Shelo said, is to provide people with urgent behavioral health needs the same level of service they’d get if they had some other health emergency and visited an urgent care center.

“Our goal with the new grant program is to develop an urgent care infrastructure that is parallel to the medical system,” she said.

Local police and firefighters respond regularly to help people experiencing mental health crises, and the need for such services might not be apparent to people.

“It’s hidden,” Lubarsky said. In her career, she has worked with local police departments in the past, “and it was eye-opening to me how many calls are really human-related rather than crime-related,” she said.

Lubarsky said Bay Cove also hopes to use the grant funds to provide better follow-up after a clinician has responded and made a referral. “Did they get to their referral, or did they reach a barrier?” she said.

The new staff will also help clinicians improve outreach and informational sessions at group homes, senior centers and mental health clubhouses, stressing the benefits of using their services rather than visiting hospital emergency rooms.