Monarch veterans reflect on a decade of providing behavioral health services
Former Stanly Foundations Behavioral Services celebrates 10-year anniversary, now Monarch provides services to thousands statewide
A decade ago, in a small office on 100 Hearne Street in Albemarle housed an even smaller group of professionals who had an overwhelming desire to meet a tremendous need to provide mental health services for children in Stanly County.
Today, Monarch’s Behavioral Health, formerly Foundations Behavioral Services, has evolved well-beyond one county – and is celebrating its 10-year anniversary. Currently, the organization offers outpatient and facility-based crisis services in nearly 20 North Carolina counties. The organization is recognized as a premier statewide provider of services for thousands of individuals with mental illness and substance use disorders.
“We got started on Jan. 31, 2005. Two weeks later, we saw our first consumer, a child in Stanly County,” recalled Monarch’s Chief Clinical Officer Daniel Brown, one of Foundation’s founders.
Brown and co-founder Ben Millsap, now a senior clinical director at Monarch, continue to identify opportunities to provide supports and innovative services to both children and adults with mental illness across North Carolina. But expansive growth into other counties was not always part of the founders’ original plan.
Millsap said that at the time, they wanted to stay small and provide only outpatient services in Stanly County. However, Monarch’s CEO Dr. Peggy Terhune and other Monarch officials realized the overwhelming need that other communities had for these services and knew growth was necessary.
Today, Monarch’s behavioral health division now employs a
staff of nearly 500 with a budget that increased from $150,000 to $35 million and, most importantly, served 23,000 people in North Carolina last year.
“It’s incredible to think we went from the phone literally not ringing an entire day, to now having five centralized operators who answer thousands of calls every day,” Millsap said.
Brown and Millsap took a moment to discuss the major milestones of the past decade. They recall the major breakthrough for the organization came in 2006 when it received its first Request for Proposal (RFP) from a Managed Care Organization and were awarded the services. Millsap explained the initiative catapulted the organization across county lines for the first time.
“It changed the course of the agency from a singular purpose of choice and competition in one county, to us becoming a behavioral health agency,” Millsap said. “When we started taking up service lines it became milestone after milestone.”
One of the organization’s largest milestones, they agreed, was the launch of Monarch’s Open Access program. The service allows people to walk in for the first time without an appointment for a comprehensive behavioral health assessment, treatment planning, psychiatric evaluation, medication, if needed, and appropriate referrals to the proper level of care all within the same visit. Brown said Monarch’s model has changed the conversation about mental health care and access throughout the state.
“We have providers seeking us out and asking how we are able to accomplish this approach,” Brown continued. “We’re gaining state and national recognition for what we’ve done with Open Access.”
After reflecting upon the past 10 years, both men are excited about Monarch’s accomplishments but they are also looking to the future.
“The most significant change for us in the next five years will be around integrated care. We are working diligently to integrate evidenced-based practices within behavioral health with the primary care world. We want to have a seamless healthcare system that effectively provides a holistic approach to the body and the brain,” Brown explained.
Additionally, Brown predicted in the next five years Monarch will continue to roll out electronic health records, crisis services, establish more crisis clinics and Facility Based Crisis Services – Monarch was recently awarded three contracts to provide this service in Mecklenburg and Forsyth counties and expansion of current service in Robeson County.
Brown said the past 10 years have proven that Monarch is an agency committed to excellence.
“We try to make it a different experience for each person walking through our doors,” he said. “Our mantra is about access. It makes a difference in people’s lives how they can access services today and we want to continue tocontribute to that positive difference with incredible care for those who need it most.”
Pictured above: Several articles and other publications fill a scrapbook depicting the origin of Monarch's Behavioral Health Services. Group photo of original Monarch behavioral health staff. The agency started with two therapists and now employs nearly 500 staff.