The HealthChoices Behavioral Health (HC-BH) program, first implemented in southeast Pennsylvania in 1997, makes mental health and drug and alcohol services available to over 2 million Pennsylvanians. The three goals of the program are to assure greater access to services and improve quality while managing costs. A decade later – in 2007 – OMHSAS achieved its mission of creating a unified behavioral health system in all 67 counties and ensuring access to recovery-oriented services and supports for individuals served by the program.
The success of the HC-BH program was built in partnership with county government, which is legally responsible for providing and managing mental health services under the Mental Health and Mental Retardation Act of 1966. HC-BH unifies service development and financial resources at the local level closest to the people served. Medicaid eligible individuals enrolled in the program are automatically enrolled in the HC-BH program in the county of their residence. A risk-based contract allows flexibility to make decisions that meet the unique needs of the county and, if savings are created, the county must reinvest the money in approved programs and supports that meet the needs of people served. The HC-BH model has lived up to its mission and fostered counties’ success in controlling the growth of Medicaid spending while increasing access and improving quality.