Joined by representatives of area health care providers, the head of NAMI-Dane County, State Representative Shelia Stubbs, and other mental health advocates, Dane County Executive Joe Parisi introduced a proposal Monday for a Universal Access Resource Center to improve mental and behavioral health care.

 With new funding from the recently approved 2020 county budget, the new “Dane County Universal Access Resource Center” will bridge private and public mental and behavioral health care providers to make it easier for patients, their families, and even providers to navigate care and advocate for loved ones.

“By working together, bringing private health providers and the county together in this first-of-its-kind bold collaboration, we can better coordinate care and improve outcomes for those who struggle with mental and behavioral health and addiction,” Parisi said in a statement. “The very nature of mental illness can deter those who suffer from it from advocating for their own care and well-being. When you combine that with the maze of service options that are affected by whether one has insurance, where that insurance allows them to be seen, and potential overlap with publicly available services, it’s clear we as a community can do better in the area of mental health access. This new resource center will provide hope and opportunity to families and compassion to their loved ones who struggle.”

This brand-new call center will be run by Dane County and designed after a model that’s been effective with the Dane County Aging and Disability Resource Center, providing a direct link to seniors and those with disabilities to available community services.

The team at the “Universal Access Resource Center” will stay up to date on service delivery changes in the community of behavioral and mental health in Dane County and their knowledge will be used to inform county residents seeking information on how to access care regardless of the system they are in — public or privately funded.  The call center, according to a press release from the Dane County Executive’s office, would be rooted in integrated relationships with all providers and systems in the county, creating a mutually beneficial resource and referral exchange, thereby making a significant leap forward towards the vision of integrated care coordinated through a single access point.

“Dean Health Plan, a member of SSM Health, is committed to supporting the County in developing a Universal Access Call Center,” said Lindsay Wallace, Behavioral Health Program Manager at Dean Health Plan, in a statement.. “We believe that our mission of improving the health of our community can be better accomplished with great community partners, and we look forward to being at the table in creating a roadmap to improve access and outcomes.”

Pending review and approval by the County Board in the coming weeks, the goal is to have staff hired for the new “Universal Access Resource Center” this spring with a grand opening slated for early summer 2020. Initially, the center will operate from noon-4 a.m., 7 days a week.