By Sanusha Sritharan
Reducing stigma, bridging gaps, improving communication, and making care more accessible are required to ensure quality mental health care for all. To address these barriers, innovation projects across California, funded through the Mental Health Services Act (MHSA), are piloting various solutions. In Orange County, Be Well OC provides an integrated mental health system that breaks down barriers to lifesaving care. Be Well OC may serve as the future blueprint for communities across the state to provide universal access to quality mental health care.
Barriers to care in Orange County
Too often, people in Orange County and throughout California cannot connect to the right care in the right place at the right time. Gaps in services, access and funding are widespread. These issues are further compounded by system fragmentation and health care silos that limit organization coordination. Geographic disparities and inequities can further restrict access. Even when available, care is not always delivered optimally using evidence-based or expert-recommended best practices, which produces poor outcomes and wasted resources.
Cultural factors also affect access to care. People may not seek care due to a lack of awareness of the importance of prevention and early intervention, effective treatment, and where to access it. Also, a deeply-rooted sense of hopelessness for those living with mental illness coupled with societal stigma can exacerbate symptoms and decrease engagement in treatment.
Be Well OC as a community movement
Be Well OC is a transformative initiative that brings together public, private, academic and faith-based organizations and others to create a coordinated mental health care system and support for all Orange County residents. It centers the voices of the community in designing a system that truly meets the on-the-ground needs. By convening and aligning multiple stakeholders, Be Well creates an environment for goals and systems to be redesigned to allow for better collaboration and resource usage across providers instead of stoking competition.
Be Well OC’s priorities
Be Well OC aspires to shape a system where everyone can get the same level of mental health care, regardless of their need or where they are in the community. To that end, they have three priorities:
First, Be Well OC plans regional campuses where people can get stabilized for substance use, trauma, and other mental health crises. These campuses will offer short and long-term mental health treatment, drug-use and psychiatric crisis-stabilization units, residential programs, and substance use disorder recovery — all under one roof.
Importantly, Be Well’s approach is payer-agnostic to ensure that everyone can get the support they need regardless of insurance provider. They plan to build multiple care campuses that will serve the North, Central and South County regions of Orange County.
Second, Be Well OC operates Mobile Crisis Response Teams that provide in-community assessment and crisis stabilization services to individuals experiencing acute mental health or substance use challenges. The teams partner with law enforcement and first responders by providing a specialized response so first responders can focus on public safety and medical calls. This approach helps improve outcomes for those in need, diverting them from emergency rooms and jails to more appropriate services, at a lower overall cost to the community.
Third, Be Well OC aims to create system change by catalyzing a community movement and building a coalition of multiple stakeholders, supporting targeted initiatives for specific issues and clearly articulating key results areas with shared accountability. Be Well OC focuses on six key results:
Be Well OC’s journey demonstrates that incremental change over time can lead to exponential transformation. The Be Well model has been shared with elected leaders and public safety officials across the state. Learning from Be Well’s organizational structure can inform other integrated services to address service and coordination gaps.
How you can support Be Well OC’s work
Learn more about Be Well OC
Listen to their Hope Happens Here podcast or check out upcoming events
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