Susan Phillips

Susan Phillips

The new Behavioral Health Safety Net (BHSN) for Children in Tennessee, which will provide mental health services to children, began Sept. 1. Volunteer Behavioral Health Care System’s (VBH) Cumberland Mental Health is slated to be a local provider for the program.

Through the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (TDMHSAS), the BHSN for children will provide services to uninsured children ages 3 – 17 who meet program eligibility criteria.

These include being a Tennessee resident, having an income at or below 138 percent of the Federal Poverty Level, having a Qualifying Mental Health Diagnosis, not having any current behavioral health insurance coverage, and not residing in a residential facility or being in state legal custody.

“We’ve been a community behavioral health partner for the BHSN for adults since 2005 when it was called Mental Health Safety Net,” said Phyllis Persinger, president and COO of VBH. “Last year, we served 8,176 adult clients with Safety Net services and we are looking forward to having this same opportunity for children as well.”

The Same Day Access program for all of VBH’s services, including the BHSN for children, makes it simple to receive help. Clients do not have to wait days or weeks for their intake appointments and can start the process right away by calling the customer service line at 877-567-6051.

During the COVID-19 emergency, several of VBH’s services are available virtually which makes it even easier to receive care. The BHSN program will offer to meet the individual needs of children through services such as assessment and evaluation, individual therapy, group therapy, family therapy, case management, transportation, family support services, psychiatric medication management, and pharmacy assistance and coordination.

We are so excited for this program to begin as we know it is going to help a lot of children right now, especially considering the difficult times we are living in. Any chance we have to help a child and family in need is a good thing.”

The BHSN for children will also fund outreach coordinator positions with VBH. These staff members will be tasked with educating community partners about the program and helping potentials clients obtain services.

VBH is committed to helping Tennessee’s children with behavioral, emotional, and mental health needs and offers numerous grant-funded children’s programs that are still operating during COVID-19. These include the Regional Intervention Program (RIP) and AFFIRM. RIP is designed for children six years of age and younger experiencing behavior issues.

New families can complete orientation and start basic skills in their home environment, while also gaining a strong support system through case management calls and support meetings/work groups. AFFIRM is for families with children who have serious emotional disturbances.

The program provides virtual break time (and in-person respite once physical distancing is no longer advised) and individualized support, as well as the development of behavioral management skills with the children. 

VBH is a non-profit community behavioral health organization serving 31 counties in Middle and East Tennessee. Appointments can be made by calling 1-877-567-6051, where a team of customer service professionals can talk with you, gather information about your current situation, and schedule a location and time convenient to you.

All programs and services currently continue serving anyone in need during the coronavirus pandemic. Also, a 24-Hour Crisis Line can be accessed at 1-800-704-2651.

Susan K. Phillips, LMSW, is the Center Director for Cumberland Mental Health.

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