How Will the Children and Family Specialty Plan Impact North Carolina Behavioral Health Providers?

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Children and Family Specialty Plan

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) is introducing a new Children and Family Specialty Plan that will significantly impact the behavioral health providers of the state. The plan seeks to ensure that children, youth, and families enrolled in Medicaid and in the child welfare system have access to physical and behavioral health services. It aims to provide coordinated and consistent delivery of these services to improve the quality and availability of behavioral health care in the state.


One key impact of the plan on behavioral health providers is an increased demand for their services. The plan intends to enroll tens of thousands of children in behavioral health services, including those in foster care, receiving adoption assistance, and former foster care youth. This influx of new enrollees will require behavioral health providers to expand their capacity and resources in order to meet the increased demand for services.

With the anticipated increase in demand for behavioral health services, there are concerns about whether there will be enough providers to meet the needs of the population. There are still shortages of behavioral health professionals and limited availability of specialized services, and there is a potential strain on existing resources to consider.

The NCDHHS has allocated significant investments towards child and family well-being to address this increased demand. The 2023-2025 budget includes $80 million for behavioral health service improvements for children and their families. These additional funds will support behavioral health providers in expanding their services, hiring more staff, and enhancing their infrastructure to effectively serve the growing number of children and families accessing behavioral health care.


The Children and Family Specialty Plan emphasizes the importance of integrating physical and behavioral health services. This integration requires collaboration and coordination among different types of providers, including primary care providers, mental health professionals, and social workers. Behavioral health providers will play a crucial role in this integrated care model by working closely with other providers to deliver comprehensive and coordinated services to children and families. This continues the shift towards integrated care and interoperability. This means behavioral health agencies will have to plan a path toward integrated care if they haven’t already done so.


It’s worth noting that the plan also aims to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of behavioral health services through prevention services and appropriate placements. This will require behavioral health providers to adopt evidence-based practices, implement preventive interventions, and ensure that children are placed in the most appropriate settings for their needs. By doing so, providers can contribute to the overall goal of reducing behavioral health crises among children and improving long-term outcomes.


The Children and Family Specialty Plan by the NCDHHS will significantly impact behavioral health providers in North Carolina. The plan will create an increased demand for their services, require expansion of capacity and resources, promote integration of physical and behavioral health, and encourage the adoption of evidence-based practices. With the allocated investments and the emphasis on prevention and appropriate placements, the plan aims to improve behavioral health outcomes for children and families across the state. While the plan is in accordance with continuing trends in the industry, the real test will be whether the increased demand and additional resources can help providers pave the way for success.


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