April 20, 2024
Behavioral Health Navigators

California Hospitals and Advocates Push for Sustainable Funding to Support Behavioral Health Navigators

Hospitals and advocates in California are urging for stable funding to support the retention of behavioral health navigators in the state. The initiative, known as CA Bridge, was launched in 2018 to guide patients with substance use disorder into long-term treatment after they are discharged from emergency rooms. However, the current funding structure is deemed unstable, leading to difficulties in retaining critical employees and navigators within the program.

Experts and health providers have expressed concerns about the reliance on one-time funding for CA Bridge’s behavioral health navigator program. The lack of stable funding makes it challenging for hospitals to retain navigators, especially amidst a growing drug crisis in California. In 2022, 7,385 Californians lost their lives to opioid-related overdoses, with 88% of cases involving fentanyl, a synthetic opioid known for its potency.

Dr. Andrew Herring, an emergency medicine physician and co-founder of CA Bridge, highlighted the struggle to sustain the navigator program due to the financial uncertainties. The program, designed to facilitate the use of medications for substance use disorders in emergency rooms, faces challenges in funding continuation, resulting in some navigators leaving their positions.

CA Bridge includes various components aimed at supporting individuals with substance use disorders, such as funding for training healthcare professionals and a navigator program that connects patients to long-term treatment. With 284 navigators currently assigned to assist patients post-discharge, concerns arise over the sustainability of the program’s funding model.

While state officials are exploring avenues to secure funding through initiatives like Medi-Cal expansion and federal grants, the absence of new state funding raises uncertainties about the program’s future sustainability. The program has received substantial federal and state funding since its inception, with the participation of a significant number of hospitals across California.

The impact of CA Bridge is evident in the number of patients who have benefited from the program, with over 76,000 individuals prescribed buprenorphine and thousands connected to follow-up care. The program’s navigators play a crucial role in facilitating patients’ access to treatment and reducing the risk of opioid-related fatalities post-discharge from emergency rooms.

However, challenges remain in ensuring that hospitals can sustainably integrate addiction care and bill for services provided by navigators. Efforts to streamline billing processes with Medi-Cal and establish a statewide funding mechanism are essential to support the long-term viability of the navigator program.

As the opioid epidemic persists, stakeholders emphasize the importance of expanding access to evidence-based treatments and supporting initiatives like CA Bridge to address the crisis effectively. With a focus on enhancing medication-assisted treatment and improving healthcare delivery, the program aims to drive positive outcomes for individuals struggling with substance use disorders in California.

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1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
2. We have leveraged AI tools to mine information and compile it