Provider seeks to reduce barriers to accessing mental health services
July 4—When someone needs mental health services, the Cumberland Mountain Mental Health Center wants to make it easier to get in touch and get help.
“The sooner we can meet a person’s needs and get them access to services, the more likely we are to help them achieve lasting recovery and a good quality of life,” said Shane Ferris, director of Cumberland Mountain. Mental Health Center. “This model seeks to make the process of entering services, which is sometimes filled with anxiety, nervousness or uncertainty, as clear and caring as possible.”
The agency, part of the Voluntary Behavioral Health Care System, has implemented a No Wrong Door intake system to help anyone connect with a service provider.
The process begins by calling the first appointment line at 1-877-567-6051.
A licensed therapist at the master’s level conducts the interview with the caller.
“During that same call, we’ll connect them to a medication manager if they need medication, a therapist, and a care manager,” Farris said. “They can do all of that on this call.”
Admissions are then referred to local offices who contact them within 24 hours with the aim of scheduling a treatment appointment within five days.
“Anyone can call this number,” Farris said.
Farris explained that many of the organization’s customers aren’t insured or covered by TennCare, but that’s not a requirement to use the service. Farris said there are many programs that care managers can use to help anyone who calls, from the safety net, income-based programs and grants that target specific individuals, such as people in crisis or veterans. Care managers can also refer people with private insurance to providers who can help them.
“They’re going to be treated with respect and kindness,” Farris said.
Farris said the idea of streamlining services has long been a goal of Volunteer Behavioral Health Care System CEO Phyllis Persinger, who took office in August 2021.
“It’s something we’ve been looking to do for some time,” Farris said.
This required staff training and team building in all departments.
“I have never met a group of individuals more committed to a process and continually striving for better results than I have with this group,” Farris said. “It amazes me on a daily basis.”
Farris said he received good feedback on the program from the community, with one person noting that it was the easiest access to mental health services the individual had ever experienced.
“It’s good to hear the process is working,” Farris said.
Mental health services may include treatment for a wide range of mental illnesses, including depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse or other disorders such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or obsessive compulsive disorder.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 21% of American adults suffered from mental illness in 2020, or about 1 in 5 adults. However, only 46.2% of adults with mental illness received treatment.
Often there can be a delay in the onset of symptoms of mental illness and the start of treatment, the NAMI noted, with an average delay of 11 days.
The No Wrong Door policy is designed to shorten this waiting period and to connect individuals when they are ready to seek treatment.
“Historically, there has been a long wait for people to get needed services,” Farris said, saying some waits would be 2 to 4 weeks. “If you can’t engage people in those first few days…you often lose them.”
Crisis services are available 24 hours a day to respond to adults in mental health crisis at 1-800-704-2651. The national 24/7 crisis line for adults and children is 855-274-7471 (855-Crisis-1).
Visit www.vbhcs.org to learn more about Cumberland Mountain mental health and volunteer behavioral health.
Heather Mullinix is editor of the Crossville Chronicle. It covers schools and education in Cumberland County. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.