Background on the Behavioral Health Roadmap

Introduced in 2021 and implemented in 2023, the Roadmap is a multi-year blueprint, based on listening sessions and feedback from nearly 700 individuals, families, providers and other stakeholders who identified the need for expanded access to treatment, more effective treatment, and improved health equity.

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Today, many people struggle to figure out what kind of treatment is available and right for them and find a provider that accepts their insurance—only 50% of people in Massachusetts who have a mental illness actually receive treatment despite significant improvements to treatment capacity made over the past five years. Too often, people end up finding mental health or substance use treatment when they experience an emergency, and end up at a hospital Emergency Department. These longstanding challenges have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic—recent research has found that 40% of adults in the U.S. are struggling with behavioral health issues related to the pandemic, and Emergency Department boarding has increased in Massachusetts throughout the pandemic.

The Roadmap introduces reforms to make outpatient assessment and treatment more readily available through a number of changes including:

  • Expanded access to treatment, including nights and weekends for a subset of behavioral health providers.
  • More behavioral health treatment—mental health and addiction services—at primary care offices.
  • Better, more convenient community-based alternatives to the emergency department for crisis intervention services.

These reforms do not replace or disrupt existing services or provider relationships— rather they aim to improve access to these services, for example:

  • More options for care and treatment, because we will encourage more providers to take insurance.

  • Access to culturally relevant care in the person’s preferred language, because we will invest in workforce competency.

Together with our diverse stakeholders, EOHHS will continue to update this Roadmap—a living document—to ease the burden on individuals and families when accessing treatment by creating a front door to care, ensuring readily available outpatient care in the community for people of all ages and backgrounds so that every resident can have their behavioral health care needs met.

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