I received my Master’s Degree in Social Work in 1993 and became a Licensed Independent Social Worker (LISW) in 1995. I started my own counseling office in 2007 and began providing behavioral health intervention services (BHIS) in 2010. We have been providing these services in Wapello, Davis, Appanoose, and Monroe counties with offices located in Ottumwa, Bloomfield, Centerville, and Albia in Southern Iowa. I was informed that there was a need for BHIS services in the Iowa City area and decided to branch out to this area.
I would like to provide some information about BHIS services and how it works to help children and families and to promote BHIS as a service that can fill the gaps in the mental and behavioral health dilemma we are experiencing in the state of Iowa, especially where our youth and their families are concerned.
What is BHIS?
Behavioral Health Intervention Services or BHIS is a Medicaid only program. BHIS was designed to work in conjunction with treatment provided by a therapist. The state of Iowa asks that each client receiving BHIS have an assessment with a therapist and continue to see that therapist as necessary throughout the time they are receiving BHIS. The state of Iowa also requires that providers continually assess the client and family for coordination of additional resources that will improve the client’s ability to make progress. Referrals for the individual and/or family members may include psychiatric evaluation/medication assessment, psychological assessment, DHS, drug and alcohol evaluation, law enforcement intervention, medical and financial support, AEA, food pantries, Job Corps, college counselors, housing, etc. BHIS is also another “eye” for at-risk children.
BHIS focuses on skills development and training with both the individual and their family. Treatment addresses areas of functioning such as emotional management, anger management, boundaries, problem solving, decision making, conflict management, compliance with limits and rules, communication, interpersonal skills, social skills, parenting skills and other areas as identified by the referral source, the assessing therapist, the individual and their family, and the BHIS provider.
A treatment plan will be developed mutually between the BHIS Provider and the client that is goal specific for this client and his or her family. Typically, the client will receive BHIS for up to 2 hours a week, and no less than 1 hour weekly. Services may be provided in the home, office, or at the clients’ school. It is our policy, that school visits should be the last resort. Although it is ideal for treatment to be provided with family present as equal as individual treatment, to accomplish this can be unrealistic. Therefore, at times, the child may benefit greatly by receiving treatment at school. As I am sure you all know, at-risk families can be very difficult to coordinate with, leaving no choice but to do whatever is necessary to bring those services to the child. However, after the initial 6 month approval period, it may be difficult to get a new 6 month order approved by Medicaid when the parent(s) are minimally involved with services, but this is assessed by Medicaid as a case by case situation.
How can BHIS aide educational staff?
For educators, the struggle to educate becomes more severe when dealing with behaviors in the classroom that are often due to factors outside of the educational environment. This not only effects that student, but many students within their classroom. Often, there is a suggestion by the school staff to the parent to seek some sort of mental health or behavioral health treatment. The parent may accept this suggestion and even the information, but many times the ball is dropped there- from the parent’s hands. In the past nearly 10 years, we have found that building a relationship with our local schools as providers has helped to fix this problem. Often, the counselors or school staff discuss releasing their contact information directly to us. If the parent agrees to the release, then we receive the referral directly from the school and our staff attempts to make contact with the parent via phone, or face to face to discuss services and set up an initial assessment. We will make a diligent effort to reach out to these families to initiate services.
How does it benefit families?
We know that behavioral training starts in the home. We are a product of our environment. BHIS targets parenting as a part of the treatment plan. Staff will work with families to develop a better sense of structure, discipline, routine, and behavioral management as a family unit. It would be ideal if the parent were on board with this as much as we were, but this is not always the case. In these situations, we will address this as much as possible.
If you have questions or would like to make a referral, you may contact me at our main office phone number at (641) 856-2688.