Alliance Health recognizes the ongoing stress that the COVID-19 pandemic has created for our members and their families, our providers, and our communities across our four-county service area (Durham, Wake, Cumberland, and Johnston). Social isolation, loss of routine, and amplified stress associated with in-person school closures, employment uncertainty, and financial concerns present significant risks for individuals already experiencing behavioral health conditions and these circumstances have increased incidents of depression, anxiety, and substance use disorders (SUDs) in our state and across the country.
During this challenging time, it is more critical than ever to sustain and strengthen a behavioral healthcare system to ensure that it is robust and accessible. We know that people can and do recover from mental illness and SUDs provided they can access the proper treatment. Additionally, promoting stability for individuals with intellectual/developmental disabilities (IDD) and others in their homes and communities of their choice is integral to positive health outcomes and living a full life. Thanks to recent funding made available to Alliance Health by the North Carolina General Assembly, the Governor, and the NC Department of Health and Human Services, Alliance has been able to make significant investments to ensure the availability of local services and supports in our communities.
Considering the increased costs to deliver services during the pandemic, Alliance has committed to both ongoing and new rate increases for certain providers through the remainder of the year. These rate increases are designed to stabilize front-line providers by helping offset their extra costs and time related to obtaining and using personal protective equipment (PPE), high-risk pay for staff working in residential facilities, overtime expenses, and higher pay rates to retain and recruit direct care professional and clinicians. These initiatives, coupled with previous financial stability payments made by Alliance during the initial days of the COVID emergency, have enabled our dedicated provider network to continue to serve members in their care and remain accessible for those newly in need of behavioral health services.
In addition to boosting rates to providers, Alliance is making investments in several key areas to enhance access to much-needed services for our members in their home communities. These investments include:
- Developing an array of specialized services to help ensure that individuals who have received inpatient or crisis services are able to link directly with community-based treatment once they are discharged from a facility or residential program. For example, Alliance has partnered with a local community-based behavioral health provider to implement a Peer Bridging Program. This program enables individuals that are receiving detoxification services from a local crisis provider to meet and engage with a person with similar life experience. These peers provide the individuals with ongoing support and links to other needed services upon discharge.
- Renovating and starting up a new child crisis center in Wake County to serve youth and families across our four-county region. This facility for children and teens ages 6-17 will include behavioral health urgent care services to address emergency department overcrowding, walk-in access to same-day clinical assessments, psychiatric evaluations, necessary medications, and 24/7 access to assessment, stabilization, and treatment planning.
- Expanding options for individuals with IDD to live in their home communities. Alliance is designing and funding individualized residential and support services for people who were previously living in an institutional setting.
- Creating new independent living options for individuals with serious mental illness including a specialized professionally-supported transitional living program that helps adults acquire independent living skills and make the adjustment from receiving treatment in a state hospital to living in the setting of their choice.
- Local residential service options for individuals with traumatic brain injury.
Making sure that our healthcare system can meet community behavioral health and IDD service needs is crucial now and in the months and years ahead as we deal with the immediate and longer-term impacts of COVID-19. Alliance is committed to continuing to work together with our providers to adapt and innovate in order to effectively serve our members and their families throughout the pandemic and beyond.