What They’re Watching: Sarah Arnquist

Sarah Arnquist is the Vice President of Client Partnerships Beacon Health Options. She joins us in this edition of “What They’re Watching” to discuss expanding crises services in Washington.

“So, Beacon Health Options currently manages the Behavioral Health Administrative Service Organization, or the BH ASO, in three regions in Washington. We just went live with Pierce County on January 1st of 2019, which is our largest region to date, and so we are focused on successfully standing up our services in Pierce County. The approach that we take in crisis services in each region where we work, is to really listen for the beginning portion of our work there — because we can’t assume that we understand everything about a community or its crisis system before we really hear from the providers, the community, and all the stakeholders about what’s working well and what’s not working well. So, focusing on Pierce County right now, working with all the stakeholders, and we have a crisis continuum of care framework that we use to help us evaluate the crisis services in the community and identify areas for investments and improvements. A lot of the time we found that we can make significant improvements and gains simply by getting people to talk together and to coordinate better on the logistics of a system — they don’t always require a ton of new financial resources. So that’s what we’re focused on in Pierce County and the other regions where we work right now, in Southwest and North Central.

A lot of Washington is rural and so an area where we’re trying to find innovative ways to build out a broader continuum of crisis services is by investing in local resources that exist, and finding non-traditional pathways and supports for crisis services. So, in Skamania County, which is a very rural and forested county, we issued $75,000 in microgrants in 2019 to local entities that were already doing preventive and diversionary work for crisis services. We used the reserve funding that we had from diverting people from higher levels of care, and are reinvesting that into the communities.

We funded a domestic violence shelter, a school-based program, and a local volunteer nonprofit that is now ensuring that for any major death in the community, somebody, a volunteer, is actually going out and responding to help that family within an hour, and working really closely with law enforcement to make sure that they are connected into the crisis system because law enforcement is often the first point of response. As we look to our other regions and how we can make the best use of these reserve dollars, we are going to be seeking community feedback and stakeholder feedback. One area would be community colleges and how we work with community colleges on workforce development, which is a huge area of need in these rural communities.”