In response to rising mental health needs, another resource is available to behavioral health patients at emergency departments across the state.
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services today announced a Connection to Care Peer Services grant award for peer support services in emergency departments. Because of their shared experience with behavioral health struggles, peers are better able to connect with people in times of crisis and better help people become and stay engaged in the recovery process. This connection has proven to reduce the likelihood of needing future emergency services.
A 3-year grant totaling $1.65 million was awarded to Cumberland County Hospital System (Cape Fear Valley Health) to provide peer support services for consumers presenting to emergency departments with distress related to behavioral health. The pilot project aims to provide improved coordination of ongoing treatment and recovery and to reduce future utilization of ED services for behavioral health needs.
"For too many North Carolinians, the only place they can find behavioral health care is in the emergency department," said NCDHHS Secretary Kody H. Kinsley. "Key investments like peer support programs and our 9-8-8 crisis line increase access for people in need and are a top priority for the department. But we have to expand Medicaid to truly meet the moment of this mental health and substance use crisis."
Patients in states that have implemented peer support services are seeing quicker access to critical care. High-risk communities are also getting more information about harm reduction strategies from peer support.
NCDHHS’ Division Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities and Substance Abuse Services solicited applications from community behavioral health providers to pilot an expansion of services to provide peer support services within their emergency departments.
Within the emergency department setting, peer support staff will:
- Engage with those who are presenting in the ED with Serious Mental Illness or Serious Emotional Disturbance
- Answer questions about recovery supports
- Provide support and education on how to access community resources and supports
- Help individuals connect to services and supports within their own communities
- Support individuals in establishing or developing strong connections and relationships within their communities
- Help individuals in finding or accessing resources related to employment, housing and other Social Determinants of Health
- Support hospital discharge
- Confirm individuals have connected to community resources and supports
- Track connections and referrals
This funding is made available through the American Rescue Plan Act 2021, provided through the Mental Health Block Grant awarded to NCDHHS.