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New Data Collection Could Improve Behavioral Health Services Locally


The Imperial County Board of Supervisors heard a presentation about new ways to collect data regarding mental health and how to improve their services during the Sept. 13 regular meeting.  

The California Behavioral Health Planning Council is under federal and state mandate to advocate on behalf of adults with severe mental illness and children with severe emotional disturbance and their families. The Council is also statutorily required the advice the legislature on behavioral health issues, policies, and priorities in California. The Council advocates for an accountable system of seamless, responsive services that are strength-based, consumer and family member-driven, recovery-oriented, culturally, and linguistically responsive, and cost-effective. Council recommendations promote cross-system collaboration to address the issues of access and effective treatment for recovery, resilience, and wellness of Californians living with severe mental illness.

The Data Notebook is the structured format to review information and report on aspects of each county’s behavioral health services. A different part of the public behavioral health system is addressed each year because the overall system is very large and complex. This system includes both mental health and substance use treatment services designed for individuals across the lifespan.

Local behavioral health boards are required to review performance outcomes data for their county and to report their findings to the California Behavioral Health Planning Council. To provide structure for the report and to make the reporting easier, each year a Data Notebook is created for local behavioral health boards to complete and submit to the Planning Council. Discussions questions seek input from local boards and their departments. These responses are analyzed by Planning Council staff to create annual reports to inform policymakers and the public.

The Data Notebook structure and questions are designated to meet important goals:

To help local boards meet their legal mandates to review and comment on their county’s performance outcome data, and to communicate their findings to the Planning Council; to serve as an educational resource on behavioral health data; to obtain opinions and thoughts of local board members on specific topics; to identify unmet needs and make recommendations.

In 2019, they developed a section with standards that are addressed each year to help them detect any trends in critical areas affecting the most vulnerable populations. These include foster youth, homeless individuals, and those with serious mental illness who need housing in adult residential facilities and some other settings. These questions assist in the identification of unmet needs or gaps in services that may occur due to changes in population, resources, or public policy.

Understanding date empowers individuals and groups in their advocacy. The Planning Council encourages all members of local behavioral health boards/commissions to participate in developing the responses for the Date Notebook. This is an opportunity for local boards and their county behavioral health departments to work together to identify important issues in their community. This work informs county and state leadership about local behavioral health programs, needs, and services. Some local boards use their Date Notebook in their annual report to the County Board of Supervisors. 

In addition, the Planning Council will provide the annual ‘Overview Report’, which is a compilation of information from all of the local behavioral health boards that completed their Data Notebooks. Those reports feature prominently on the website of the California Association of Local Mental Health Boards and Commissions. The Planning Council uses this information in their advocacy to the legislature, and to provide input to the state of health block grant application.

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