Recognizing the significant impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on people with mental health and substance use disorders, as well as service providers, the Federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration recently released COVID-19 relief funding as a supplement to the Mental Health Block Grant. This funding was appropriated as part of The Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplement Appropriations Act, 2021 (Public Law 116-260) and is designed to assist in the Commonwealth’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and will be available from March 2021 through March 2023. This is one-time funding.
The COVID-19 Relief supplemental funding is intended to be used to prevent, prepare for, and respond to Serious Mental Illness (SMI) and Serious Emotional Disturbance (SED) needs and gaps due to the on-going COVID-19 pandemic. The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impacted people with mental illness. Public health recommendations, such as social distancing, are necessary to reduce the spread of COVID-19. However, these public health recommendations can at the same time negatively impact those with SMI/SED. The COVID-19 pandemic can increase stress, anxiety, feelings of isolation and loneliness, the use of alcohol or illicit substances, and other symptoms of underlying mental illness. Too many people with SMI and SED cannot access the treatment and support that they need, and the pandemic has further disrupted access and care for even greater numbers.
SAMHSA recommends that states use the COVID-19 Relief supplemental funds wherever possible to develop and support evidence-based crisis services development and to increase access to evidence-based treatment and coordinated recovery support for those with SMI and SED.
Some examples of how COVID-19 Relief supplemental funds may be used include:
- operation of an “access line,” “crisis phone line,” or “warm lines” to address any mental health issues for individuals;
- training of staff; and equipment that supports enhanced mental health crisis response and services;
- Mental Health Awareness training for first responders and others;
- hiring of outreach and peer support workers for regular check-ins for people with SMI/SED;
- prison and jail re-entry and enhanced discharge from inpatient settings in order to reduce risks of COVID-19 transmission; and
- COVID-19 related expenses for those with SMI/SED, including testing and administering COVID vaccines, COVID awareness education, and purchase of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
All Mental Health Block Grant funding, including these COVID-19 relief supplemental funds, is subject to two ‘set-aside’ requirements: 1) 10% First Episode Psychosis services; and 2) 5% Crisis Support Services.
- The 10% Set Aside for First Episode Psychosis is intended to address the service needs of youth experiencing psychosis and their families. While most individuals with serious mental illness, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and major depression, experience the first signs of illness during adolescence or early adulthood, often there are long delays between symptom onset and the receipt of evidence-based interventions. Widespread awareness of early signs of psychosis and rapid access to evidence based treatment is associated with improved symptoms, fewer relapse episodes, and greater community integration among individuals experiencing a psychotic illness.
- The 5% Set Aside for Crisis Support Services is intended to support evidence-based crisis care programs that address the needs of individuals with serious mental illnesses and children with serious mental and emotional disturbances. A fully realized crisis response system has the capacity to respond, deescalate, and follow-through crises so that individuals in crisis not only make it through safely but also transition well onto a path of recovery. This includes having services that address the needs of children, particularly in regard to school re-entry and related crises for children and adolescents and children at risk for maltreatment or who have been maltreated.
In using these supplemental funds to address the behavioral health impact of COVID19, particularly among people with serious mental illness and/or serious emotional disturbance and their families, DMH will prioritize funding that addresses gaps in the behavioral health system and aligns with the Executive Office of Health and Human Services’ Roadmap for Behavioral Health Reform. (https://www.mass.gov/service-details/roadmap-for-behavioral-health-reform)
It is important to note that as with all Mental Health Block Grant funds, the funds may not be used for the following purposes:
- to provide or purchase inpatient hospital services;
- to make, or to allow to be made, any cash payments to any recipients or intended recipients of health or behavioral health services;
- for the purchase or improvement of land, purchase, construction or permanent improvement (other than minor remodeling) of any building or other facility, or purchase of major equipment, including medical equipment;
- to provide financial assistance to any entity other than a public or nonprofit private entity; or
- to purchase or loan telehealth equipment/other technology for use by people served, (i.e., phones, tablets, cell phone minutes).
DMH will use the information and proposals collected through this RFI to inform the development of a strategic implementation plan for expending the available funds. DMH will comply with the federal rules and reporting requirements for use of these COVID19 Supplemental Mental Health Block Grant funds when finalizing the implementation plan.
Purpose of RFI
DMH is interested in receiving in response to this Request For Information (RFI) your ideas regarding specific strategies to prevent, prepare for, and respond to Serious Mental Illness (SMI) and Serious Emotional Disturbance (SED) needs and gaps due to the on-going COVID-19 pandemic., e.g. service development or enhancement, education and training. DMH is particularly interested in ideas that would utilize one-time or time-limited funding to address the following priorities:
- Addressing the significant increase in behavioral health boarding episodes in emergency departments
- Enhancing the crisis support service system in order to address the escalating need for urgent behavioral health care due to the impact of COVID19
- Addressing the behavioral health needs of children and youth impacted by COVID19, including strategies to support parents and schools.
- Expanding MA capacity to rapidly respond to youth experiencing psychosis and their families and to enhance access to specialized First Episode Psychosis services
- Addressing social determinants of health and racial equity in the delivery of behavioral health prevention, intervention, treatment and recovery support.
Interested organizations and individuals are invited to provide DMH with ideas for specific activities to address these priorities. Respondents may also choose to specify another priority need in the MA behavioral health system and to provide ideas for specific activities to address that need. Ideas submitted through this RFI process should focus on activities that can be supported by one-time or time-limited funding.
Please submit your response according to the instructions provided below in Section IV. Feel free to respond to as many of the above priorities on which you would like to provide input. We encourage you to respond and thank you in advance for your ideas and recommendations.
Questions For Response - (Downloadable Form)
DMH is interested in hearing your ideas about how to address the gaps or unmet needs in Massachusetts’s behavioral health prevention, treatment, and recovery services systems in the context of COVID-19 and what specific strategies (new or existing) that you would recommend to address these needs and gaps. Approaches could include (but are not limited to) adding to and expanding on existing efforts; adding new initiatives that expand into areas of unmet need or address current inequities; focusing on workforce development initiatives; infusing short term funding for covid-related gaps and needs; or implementing other approaches you have identified?
Submission and Response Requirement
1) Due Date
We encourage you to submit your responses early. To ensure review and consideration by DMH responses need to be submitted to DMH by Monday, June 14, 2021 at 3:00 PM EST.
2) Submission Format
Please submit responses through COMMBUYS no later than June 14, 2021 at 3:00PM EST.
If you need assistance obtaining the form or submitting your response via COMMBUYS, please contact Jerome Collins at Jerome.firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 617-626-8043.
Please label your response documents with the respondent’s name followed by: MHBG_COVID-19_Emergency_Relief_RFI_Response.
- Example file name: Jane_Doe_MHBG_COVID-19_Emergency_Relief_RFI_Response
Respondents are asked to submit their response(s) through COMMBUYS. If a respondent has any issues utilizing COMMBUYS, they should contact the COMMBUYS Help Desk at COMMBUYS@state.ma.us or call during normal business hours (8AM – 5PM Monday – Friday) at 1-888-627-8283 or 617-720-3197.
- Webcast: How to Locate and Respond to a Bid in CommBuys, will familiarize respondents with COMMBUYS terminology, basic navigation, and provide guidance for locating bid opportunities in COMMBUYS and submitting an online quote.
Response must be in writing, using single-spaced pages in Times New Roman 12-point font. Please limit your response to no more than 3 pages. The pages of the response must be numbered (please insert the page number as a footer). Attachments to the response must be clearly labeled, with your name and the question number to which they relate. Attachments must be limited to information that is directly relevant to your response. Do not include marketing or promotional material with your response. This information will be disregarded on review. Please keep your responses to key points to help facilitate review.
Respondents with disabilities or hardships who seek reasonable accommodations in responding to this RFI must communicate such requests by e-mail to Sarah Hough at Sarah.M.Hough@mass.gov. Requests for accommodation will be addressed on a case by case basis. The DMH reserves the right to reject unreasonable requests.
Additional RFI Information
Use of Information and Costs
Responses to this RFI may be reviewed, evaluated and shared by and with any person(s) at the discretion of the DMH, including but not limited to other agencies within EOHHS and independent consultants.
Responses to this RFI become the property of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and are public records under the Massachusetts Freedom of Information Law, M.G.L. c. 66, § 10 and c. 4, § 7, cl. 26, regarding public access to such documents. However, information provided to DMH in response to this RFI and identified by the respondent as trade secrets or commercial or financial information shall be kept confidential and shall be exempt from disclosure as a public record (see M.G.L. c. 4, § 7, cl. 26). This exemption may not apply to information submitted in response to any subsequent procurement.
Any cost incurred in responding to this RFI, or in support of activities associated with this RFI, are the sole responsibility of respondent. The DMH shall not be held responsible for any costs incurred by respondents in preparing their respective responses to this RFI.
This RFI has been distributed electronically using the Commonwealth Procurement Access and Solicitation System (COMMBUYS). COMMBUYS is an electronic mechanism used for advertising and distributing the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ procurements and related files. No individual may alter (manually or electronically) the RFI or its components except those portions intended to collect the respondent’s response. Interested parties may access COMMBUYS at the following address: http://www.commbuys.com. Questions specific to COMMBUYS should be made to the COMMBUYS Help Desk at email@example.com.
Interested parties are solely responsible for checking COMMBUYS for any addenda or modifications that are subsequently made to this RFI. The DMH accepts no liability and will provide no accommodation to interested parties who fail to check for amendments to the RFI.
DMH reserves the right to accept or reject, in part or in full, any information contained in or submitted in response to this RFI. The RFI is not binding on DMH and shall not obligate DMH to issue a procurement that incorporates any RFI provisions or responses. Responding to this RFI is entirely voluntary, will in no way affect DMH’ consideration of any proposal submitted in response to any subsequent procurement, and will not serve as an advantage or disadvantage to the respondent in the course of any procurement that may be issued.
DMH appreciates the time and consideration you invest in responding to this RFI.