The National Council for Behavioral Health is the unifying voice of mental health and addiction providers, who together serve 10 million adults and children living with mental illnesses and addictions. As awareness grows among both the public and policymakers about the devastating effects and costs of addiction in the United States, the National Council for Behavioral Health sought to develop a policy toolkit that would support efforts to regulate and legislate “recovery housing”—residential environments that provide people in recovery a safe, alcohol- and drug-free place to live as they transition back into the community. Increasingly recognized as a key component of successful long-term recovery but often not well regulated, the National Council hoped that by creating a state legislative toolkit, states could improve recovery housing and bring all operations up to a common, highest level of quality.
The National Council turned to Momentum Health Strategies for help in researching and writing the toolkit, leaning on Momentum’s strong background and expertise in mental health issues and state health policy.
Addiction treatment and state policy is rapidly expanding and changing,” said Stephanie Pellit, policy and advocacy associate for the National Council, “and we needed to move quickly in order to get ahead of it so that we could provide a consistent template and road map for policymakers to consider. By bringing in Jennifer and Erica, we had the kind of support and expertise we needed to turn around in six months what would have otherwise taken years; they held key interviews, developed content in a recovery-friendly voice, and they have the legislative and marketing experience to ensure that the result meets the needs of both policymakers and recovery housing providers. It’s a tough balance, but they handled it easily and adeptly. Working with them was a great experience, and the result has been enormously well received.
The comprehensive, 40-page toolkit, Building Recovery: State Policy Guide for Supporting Recovery Housing, features sample legislative language to create the first “model” law on recovery housing, fact sheets, and a glossary of terms to help ensure consistency within the health care community. Published in April 2018, the toolkit calls on states to adopt robust recovery housing quality standards, establish a certification program, and support recovery residences as they work to meet nationally recognized standards.
In October 2015, the Council was awarded a four-year grant from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services to provide technical assistance to 4,000 clinicians serving those with serious mental illnesses in New York and reduce all-cause re-hospitalization rates by 50 percent over the life of the project.
The award ignited a fast and furious start-up, with a focus on hiring and onboarding staff; establishing project workplan, framework, and standard operating procedures; quickly operationalizing clinician recruitment; and defining goals to meet year-one targets. It was an exciting time, but a huge job.
To fill immediate gaps, the Council brought in Momentum Health Strategies to manage partners and establish formal project systems and processes. As staff came on board, Momentum’s role switched to strategy development and implementation around recruitment and enrollment of clinicians. The Momentum team strategized with Council staff on quarterly recruitment goals, and helped shape the conversation for the effort’s long-term success and supported successful accomplishment of year-one recruitment targets.
They filled a void when we needed it most,” a project manager said. “It was an enormous job, and we didn’t have enough staff at the onset. Momentum’s help was critical to ensuring we could launch our effort without wasting any time. They helped create the framework and focused our recruiting efforts, but even more importantly, they played—and continue to play—the quarterback role by managing all the players. They help keep us informed and engaged, and they can provide what no one else can: a vantage point from the outside, from people who know the project intimately, with the perspective that only an ‘outsider’ can provide. They’re the ideal devil’s advocate.
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We’re working with Erica now, and she’s incredibly proactive, responsive, and receptive. She keeps us on task—and with a project that has as many components as this one does—that’s a critical role.