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Rural Health Information Hub

Regional Behavioral Health Network

Summary 
  • Need: Multiple organizations in rural east central Illinois needed a more efficient, centralized system for referring patients experiencing a behavioral health crisis to appropriate treatment services.
  • Intervention: The Regional Behavioral Health Network was established with a 24-hour toll-free crisis line, providing immediate access to trained crisis clinicians.
  • Results: Improved access to high quality behavioral healthcare for patients in rural east central Illinois.

Description

The Regional Behavioral Health Network (RBHN) was formed in 2002 by three organizations: LifeLinks, Human Resources Center of Edgar and Clark Counties, and Sarah Bush Lincoln Health Center. The objective of RBHN is to provide 24-hour crisis coverage for behavioral health issues.

These organizations were all struggling in some way to meet the healthcare needs of people in a behavioral health crisis. The health system was attempting to treat psychiatric patients in the emergency department. When these patients did not need inpatient services, staff were unsure how to access outpatient services for them at area mental health centers in a timely manner. Conversely, if crisis clinicians from mental health centers needed inpatient options for clients, there was no direct way to connect them with the health system.

Staff from each organization formed a clinical committee. Committee members reviewed data from all partnering organizations in order to estimate volume and determine documentation needs. This committee also made recommendations for staffing, such as qualifications and shifts as well as office locations.

A separate information technology committee investigated wireless connectivity options for the use of cell phones, data management, and billing. All partnering organizations agreed which agency would employ the RBHN network staff, which included a network director, an office assistant, and clinical staff.

RBHN decided to form and staff a 24/7 toll-free crisis line. All three organizations routed their crisis calls to this line. When callers phone the toll-free number, they are connected to a trained crisis clinician who can offer immediate assistance with knowledge of area behavioral health resources. The service is free to those who choose to access it.

Today, RBHN is solely operated by LifeLinks and supported by state and federal funding.

Services offered

  • Centralized hiring, training, and supervising of crisis staff
  • Immediate access to full-time crisis clinicians 24/7 via the toll-free crisis line
  • 24/7 coverage in the emergency department
  • 24/7 response for law enforcement agencies in three counties
  • Crisis coverage for "walk-ins" at area mental health centers
  • Educational presentations at local schools and other agencies about suicide prevention, mental health awareness, and available resources
  • Partnership with the state of Illinois to respond to calls to the Call4Calm line established in response to the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Partnership with the state of Illinois as a 988 responder agency

Results

Since the Regional Behavioral Health Network was founded, several surrounding communities have requested that crisis services be facilitated by the designated crisis team within their counties. RBHN now provides crisis services for rural Coles, Shelby, Moultrie, Edgar, and Douglas counties in east central Illinois.

In addition to increased access, the RBHN has produced the following results:

  • Improved consistency and quality of crisis services
  • Increased billable hours of service
  • Mental health center and hospital staff no longer interrupted by crisis calls
  • Elimination of mandatory, on-call rotations at area mental health centers
  • Decreased wait time from hospital discharge to outpatient follow-up for behavioral health services

Challenges

  • Securing enough staff to fill all positions for the crisis line 24 hours a day, every day of the year, is a challenge.
  • Budget cuts to mental health programs also continue to present funding obstacles for the crisis line.
  • Overall changes to the crisis system at the state level can come at any time. Flexibility and creative problem-solving are essential skills in creating a successful program.
  • Ensuring staff safety in the field is also another ongoing challenge. Staff safety should be a high priority with constant monitoring and evaluation.

Replication

Take time to determine the number of staff needed to operate a crisis line and then figure out how many should be working at each shift. Even when a schedule has been set, employees need to expect that some shifts will be slow-paced while other shifts will be extremely busy.

Data collection is also important when determining staffing patterns and needs. Knowing the overall volume of calls, high call times, and specific area utilization when servicing multiple counties can help with determining staffing needs.

Contact Information

Angela Catalano, Director of Crisis Services
Regional Behavioral Health Network (RBHN)
217.238.5700
acatalano@lifelinksinc.org

Topics
Behavioral health workforce
Emergency department and urgent care services
Hospitals
Mental health
Networking and collaboration
Suicide and suicide prevention

States served
Illinois

Date added
August 9, 2007

Date updated or reviewed
April 19, 2023

Suggested citation: Rural Health Information Hub, 2023. Regional Behavioral Health Network [online]. Rural Health Information Hub. Available at: https://www.ruralhealthinfo.org/project-examples/424 [Accessed 15 April 2024]


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