The El Paso County Department of Human Services is leading the way to make behavioral health services more readily available to a large portion of Southern Colorado. The El Paso County Board of County Commissioner formally accepted a state grant at its regular meeting last week.

“This grant will help children, youth and families in El Paso County as well as southeastern Colorado and the San Luis Valley have improved access to behavioral and physical health services by filling existing gaps through the expansion of the network of qualified providers,” said Julie Krow, Executive director of El Paso County Department of Human Services.

The Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing recently awarded a $242,758 grant to expand a project begun last year to help current and potential Health First Colorado providers to increase service eligibility. The grant will be used to help Health First Colorado providers in Bent, Costilla, Crowley, Otero, Pueblo, and Saguache counties. The 2018 grant award focused on providers in El Paso, Teller and Park counties, and results have documented improved access to health services.

“Counties are able to accomplish much more when we work together,” said Pueblo County Department of Human Services Executive Director Tim Hart. “The collaborative work funded by the grant will improve access to behavioral health services and improve the lives of families in Southeastern Colorado. It provides more options for our most vulnerable families.”

The new grant funds will expand current and potential providers in the Southeast and San Luis Valley regions. Providers will receive technical assistance in billing, coding, credentialing, and understanding denial reasons and appeals. However, the project also includes an outreach component, to encourage healthcare providers to become Health First Colorado providers.

An administrative services firm, Left Hand Management, was contracted to offer a variety of services and supports at no cost to providers. The firm facilitates enrollments, develops trainings, and conducts outreach. Technical assistance includes state registration, RAE enrollment and credentialing, billing and claims management, clinical records, treatment planning, and diagnosis. The contractor offers limited advocacy and troubleshooting with the RAE, to help resolve provider concerns.

Behavioral health needs are significant in Southern Colorado, and the limited number of providers can lead to increased wait times for children and families to receive care. Connecting people to appropriate care is critical in building and sustaining strong and healthy communities.

The impact is measurable. In the 2018-2019 reporting period for the initial grant, 65 providers completed HCPF validation.

Applications were submitted by 59 providers to the Regional Accountability Entities (RAE). The process can take between five and seven months to complete. The RAEs provide data, analytics, expertise, organizational support and financing to help practices coordinate care for Health First Colorado clients and integrate behavioral health, public health and human services. When the multi-step process is completed by providers, the choice and diversity in treatment options for children and their families is increased.

The key to the success of this project is the individualized attention that can be offered to each provider. While there is some generalization in regard to materials, resources and training available, the intent is to tailor the approach to the specific need of each provider’s business and help them be successful in making the expansion into Health First Colorado funded services.

With the additional funding, the number of Health First Colorado providers will continue to increase, improving access to behavioral and other health services to populations that are often underserved. The project is also an example of how El Paso County maximizes collaborative efforts to effectively and efficiently maximize the use of federal funds.

“The Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing recognizes the need in our community and the region, and we’re appreciative and excited about their financial support to pursue solutions,” Krow said.