An inside look into Rhode Island's evolving healthcare system with behavioral health department Director Richard Charest

Rhode Island is using its fiscal year 2023 budget to improve the state's mental healthcare system, according to Richard Charest, director of the state's Department of Behavioral Healthcare and Developmental Disabilities & Hospitals.

Mr. Charest joined Becker's to share what changes Rhode Island officials are making to the state's mental healthcare system to better support those who need it most.

Editor's note: This interview was edited lightly for clarity and brevity.

Richard Charest: One of the most exciting developments is the transition from a traditional behavioral health system model of care to Certified Community Behavioral Health Center model. This will enhance our ability to provide behavioral healthcare in community-based settings by ensuring access to integrated and evidence-based mental health and substance use services.

Rhode Island's fiscal year 2023 budget provides a $30 million investment in infrastructure for a transition to the CCBHC model. CCBHCs will service people across the lifespan — children, youth, adults and older adults — integrating services to ensure an approach to healthcare that emphasizes recovery, wellness, trauma-informed care, and physical behavioral health. As envisioned, CCBHCs will also offer 24/7 mobile crisis response, which engages people where they live and where they are, eliminating the barrier of transportation when someone needs help.

In this way, CCBHCs will expand access to care, serving anyone who requests care for mental health or substance use, regardless of ability to pay, place of residence or age. This will better serve the people who need help and reduce the number of people needing hospital services.

At the same time, the new 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is helping people who are experiencing suicidal, substance use and/or mental health crises, or any other kind of emotional distress. This ties in perfectly with the move to the CCBHC model because mobile crisis intervention is one of the most important advances in mental healthcare. Through this approach, we will treat individuals where they need help and when they need it, eliminating the need to use the criminal justice system.

We are hopeful and we believe that these moves, together, will help to save lives and help to turn the tide of overdoses and deaths.


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