Howard Center Secures $4 Million Grant to Enhance Services

BURLINGTON, VT — Howard Center has secured a $4 million federal grant to help the agency expand services and ensure access to coordinated and comprehensive behavioral health care. The four-year grant will enable Howard Center to meet federal criteria to become a Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic (CCBHC).

Funded through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the CCBHC model requires agencies to provide a comprehensive range of behavioral health services so people who need more than one type of support don’t have to look for help from multiple providers. CCBHC agencies are also required to help people navigate behavioral health care, physical health care, social services, and other systems.

“From the perspective of the person seeking help, the CCBHC model is about enabling someone to access all the care available to them through a single agency,” said Howard Center CEO Bob Bick.

“A person who is already coping with behavioral health needs shouldn’t have to also search for the right provider for each service they need. Under the model, Howard Center would be able to provide behavioral health services, some basic medical services, and help with accessing medical care.”

The grant funded activities start with an assessment of community needs Howard Center will conduct over the winter including partner engagement, targeted outreach, and focus groups.

“Even though there’s a long and very specific set of criteria we have to meet before we could be certified,” said Erin O’Keefe, who will be managing the grant for Howard Center, “SAMHSA allows us to first take a careful look at community needs and adjust our plans accordingly.”

Once fully implemented, the grant will support up to eight staff positions including two clinicians, a care coordinator, and a cultural liaison. “We’re fortunate that Howard Center is already meeting most CCBHC criteria,” said O’Keefe. “With the additional staff and resources from the grant we’re confident we’ll meet all criteria.”

In addition to the service enhancements implemented with the grant, certification could also enable Howard Center to access higher Medicaid reimbursement rates in the future.

“Our state partners are taking steps to be able to access the higher Medicaid rates available with the CCBHC model. We’re hopeful that when Howard Center is able to become certified, the mechanisms will be in place to draw on improved Medicaid reimbursements,” said Bick.

“The spirit of the program is about meeting community needs and making it easier for people to access services,” shared O’Keefe. “We’re excited to have the opportunity.”