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Lighthouse Behavioral Wellness Centers receives $2 million grant to expand mental health services, access for clients

Sierra Rains
The Daily Ardmoreite
Lighthouse Behavioral Wellness Centers recently received a $2 million federal grant that will help the organization expand mental health services and access for clients.

Lighthouse Behavioral Wellness Centers recently received a $2 million federal grant that will help the organization expand services and access for those experiencing mental illness. 

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration awarded the nonprofit agency the grant for Certified Community Behavioral Health Center (CCBHC) Expansion in late April— the first federal grant Lighthouse Behavioral Wellness Centers has received in the nearly 70 years its been in operation.

“This is a huge deal,” said Lighthouse Executive Director Jessica Pfau. “We will be moving forward very quickly over the next six months to begin to really meet the needs of the community. The question is 'what does the community need?' Well we’re going to have the money to provide it and it’s really, really exciting.” 

Lighthouse Behavioral Wellness Centers provides behavioral health services at clinics located across a nine-county area in southern Oklahoma, with one clinic located in Ardmore.

Gina Rodgers, Director of Integrated Care at Lighthouse Behavioral Wellness Centers, said the grant will allow the organization to change the structure and the way that it provides services— moving towards becoming a CCBHC, which is considered as the gold standard of care in behavioral health care. 

There are currently only four other Certified Community Behavioral Health Centers in Oklahoma and 221 other organizations working towards certification in the United States. CCBHCs are designed to provide a more comprehensive range of mental health and substance use disorder services to vulnerable individuals. 

Services a CCBHC must directly provide include, but are not limited to: a 24/7 mobile crisis team to help individuals stabilize; immediate screening and risk assessment; easy to access care with criteria to assure a reduced wait time; tailored care for active duty military and veterans; integration of physical health care and expanded care coordination with physicians, providers, law enforcement and schools. 

The CCBHC expansion grant will allow Lighthouse Behavioral Wellness Centers to develop the infrastructure, including staff, facilities and procedures, to meet those requirements. 

“We are having daily meetings to accomplish all of the goals of the CCBHC,” Rodgers said. “A lot of it is working with the community to understand the collaborations and partnerships that will be needed with primary care providers so that we can begin collaborating with them on the physical health care needs of those individuals with serious mental illness.” 

Rodgers said Lighthouse Behavioral Wellness Centers began working to implement these changes during the “ramp-up phase” after receiving the grant funds in May and will begin enrolling consumers at the end of August. The grant is for one year and may be renewed for an extra $2 million in the second year. 

“The ramp-up phase gives us that time and availability to be able to do those things — change workflows, change policies and procedures, begin more outreach — because one of the main components is increasing access to consumers,” Rodgers said. 

Providing care where people live, work and play is essential, Rodgers said. As a CCBHC, the organization will receive payment for services provided outside the clinic, including mobile crisis teams, home visits, outreach workers and emergency or jail diversion programs. 

CCBHCs report an 87% increase in the number of people served, Rodgers said. Demonstrated long-term effects on the community include a decrease in homelessness, ER utilization, preventable hospitalization and incarceration. 

“We’re very excited about this opportunity and it will definitely make a difference in the lives of individuals who experience mental illness,” Rodgers said. “They are dying 26 to 30 years sooner than the average population in Oklahoma and hopefully these services will be able to close that discrepancy.”