Children's Behavioral Health Work Group

Spotlight: 2021 Children's Behavioral Health Work Group


SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) defines behavioral health as “the promotion of mental health, resilience and wellbeing; the treatment of mental and substance use disorders; and the support of those who experience and/or are in recovery from these conditions, along with their families and communities.” This holistic approach applied to the care of our county’s children, is requisite for meaningful work and effective outcomes


The Children’s Behavioral Health Work Group (CBHWG) of Barnstable County DHS was conceived in February 2019 as a grass roots effort to “understand, plan for, and address the gaps and enhance the strengths for the Cape and Islands behavioral health (BH) system of care for children ages 0-18.” Membership includes representatives from Barnstable County Human Services, other Cape based human services agencies, school districts, emergency mental health services, health care providers, community health centers, Children’s Cove, the Department of Children and Families, NAMI, the “Keep Them Coming Program” of the District Attorney’s Office, the MA Department of Mental Health and staff from Senator Cyr’s office. The CBHWG meets monthly on the third Wednesday from 3 – 4 pm.

The group has identified challenges to obtaining behavioral health care for youth and families, and developed a comprehensive Recommendations and Action Plan to address them. The Plan, constructed from a “system scan” of services and well informed, professional anecdotal input, reflects the diverse network of treatment and services involved in providing behavioral health care. It is reviewed and updated periodically, to reflect priorities, changing needs and new initiatives.


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Action Plan Summary

  • Attracting and keeping a qualified behavioral health care provider workforce was identified as a foundational issue. Local agencies have struggled to fill vacancies. Contributing factors, include inadequate compensation combined with the high cost of living/housing on the Cape. Our children and families are waiting weeks, even months for needed treatment.
  • Critical behavioral health services for children have left the Cape over the past two decades, with the greatest impact on the more rural areas of the Outer/Lower and Upper Cape. Essential programs for children not presently located on the Cape are the following: CBAT (Community Based Acute Treatment), Partial Hospitalization Programs, adequate number of outpatient treatment providers, acute inpatient treatment, Intensive Outpatient Treatment Programs in school and after school settings, longer term inpatient beds for psychiatric care, mental health urgent care and a Recovery High School.
  • Improved coordination of behavioral health care services, and the siting of additional satellite/outreach behavioral health care programs were identified as critical to meeting our geographic challenges.


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FY22 Priorities

  • Continued work by the subcommittees and newly formed action team will target improved and consistent communication with state agencies, specifically the Department of Mental Health, regarding program development and funding opportunities.
  • Consistent communication and advocacy with our State and federal legislators regarding our behavioral health care needs, pending legislation and funding.
  • A comprehensive and targeted Behavioral Health Care for Children Needs Assessment, one that highlights our unique challenges will define and quantify specific areas of need, and strengthen our voice and advocacy efforts.
  • Continued support for the provision of mental health services in our schools
  • Active pursuit of involvement in the Department of Mental Health “Roadmap to Behavioral Health Care Reform” initiative.
  • As a Governance Member, provide support and project oversight of the HRSA Network Planning Grant for the Outer/Lower Cape.


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For more information, contact Vaira Harik, Program Manager at Barnstable County Department of Human Services at 508-375-6629 or

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