Mental health and chemical-dependency services will be combined under a new agency serving Thurston and Mason counties.
Beginning April 1, the new Thurston Mason Behavioral Health Organization will oversee and manage state-funded mental health and chemical dependency programs in the two counties.
Because the problems are often intertwined, the Legislature directed the state Department of Social and Health Services in 2014 to change how it purchases mental health and chemical dependency services.
Under the existing system, services are purchased from Regional Support Networks and counties. Under the new organization, services will be purchased by the BHO through a managed-care structure.
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“We’re trying to build a workforce of individuals that can treat both,” said Mark Freedman, interim administrator for the new organization. The goal is for clients to be able to access all necessary services from a single provider.
“This new organization allows us to combine mental health and substance abuse services that are greatly needed in the community,” said Thurston County Commissioner Bud Blake in a news release. Blake will serve as chairman of the BHO.
A priority will be to reduce the use of jails and emergency rooms to deal with people needing ongoing behavioral health care. Freedman said under the new system, a person who needs help can walk into an agency, such as Behavioral Health Resources, and get an assessment. BHR will contact the joint-county organization, which will authorize care.
“We want to make sure there are enough providers, enough services and the right kind of services,” Freedman said.