What is behavioral health?

Behavioral health includes the emotions and behaviors that affect your overall well-being such as individual and family experience or life stressors. Behavioral health is sometimes called mental health and often includes substance use.

Behavioral Health Needs Assessment Survey

Barnstable County Department of Human Services is conducting a needs assessment about the behavioral health needs of children, youth, and young adults (age 0–21 years) in Barnstable County. Results from this assessment, in particular the survey, will help inform service offerings and decision-making in our region. Your contribution is valuable!

This survey is anonymous and voluntary, does not ask for your name or address, and you can stop taking it at any time. It only takes about 15 minutes to complete.

Children’s Behavioral Health Work Group

  • Monthly meetings with stakeholders
  • Liaison to Behavioral Health and Human Service agencies Cape-wide
  • Monitor State and Federal Behavioral Health Legislation
  • Work with stakeholders on program development; e.g. L.O.S.S. Team (Local Outreach to Survivors of Suicide
  • Promote funding and program development opportunities to stakeholders
  • Network with the Behavioral Health Service Provider Community
  • Educate elected officials and legislators; advocate for our needs in Barnstable County
  • Facilitate Learning Opportunities


The Children’s Behavioral Health Work Group (CBHWG) of Barnstable County DHS was conceived in February 2019 as a grassroots effort to “understand, plan for, and address the gaps and enhance the strengths for the Cape and Islands behavioral health (BH) system of care for children ages 0-18.” Membership includes representatives from Barnstable County Human Services, other Cape-based human services agencies, school districts, emergency mental health services, health care providers, community health centers, Children’s Cove, the Department of Children and Families, NAMI, the “Keep Them Coming Program” of the District Attorney’s Office, the MA Department of Mental Health and staff from Senator Cyr’s office. The CBHWG meets monthly on the third Wednesday from 3 – 4 pm.

The group has identified challenges to obtaining behavioral health care for youth and families and developed a comprehensive Recommendations and Action Plan to address them. The Plan, constructed from a “system scan” of services and well-informed, professional anecdotal input, reflects the diverse network of treatment and services involved in providing behavioral health care. It is reviewed and updated periodically, to reflect priorities, changing needs, and new initiatives.

Action Plan Summary

  • Attracting and keeping a qualified behavioral health care provider workforce was identified as a foundational issue. Local agencies have struggled to fill vacancies. Contributing factors, include inadequate compensation combined with the high cost of living/housing on the Cape. Our children and families are waiting weeks, even months for needed treatment.
  • Critical behavioral health services for children have left the Cape over the past two decades, with the greatest impact on the more rural areas of the Outer/Lower and Upper Cape. Essential programs for children not presently located on the Cape are the following: CBAT (Community Based Acute Treatment), Partial Hospitalization Programs, adequate number of outpatient treatment providers, acute inpatient treatment, Intensive Outpatient Treatment Programs in school and after-school settings, longer-term inpatient beds for psychiatric care, mental health urgent care and a Recovery High School.
  • Improved coordination of behavioral health care services and the siting of additional satellite/outreach behavioral health care programs were identified as critical to meeting our geographic challenges.

FY22 Priorities

  • Continued work by the subcommittees and newly formed action teams will target improved and consistent communication with state agencies, specifically the Department of Mental Health, regarding program development and funding opportunities.
  • Consistent communication and advocacy with our State and federal legislators regarding our behavioral health care needs, pending legislation, and funding.
  • A comprehensive and targeted Behavioral Health Care for Children Needs Assessment, one that highlights our unique challenges will define and quantify specific areas of need, and strengthen our voice and advocacy efforts.
  • Continued support for the provision of mental health services in our schools
  • Active pursuit of involvement in the Department of Mental Health “Roadmap to Behavioral Health Care Reform” initiative.


For more information, contact Mandi Speakman, Deputy Director at Barnstable County Department of Human Services at 508-470-4936 or mandi.speakman@capecod.gov.

Rural Health Network Planning Grant

  • Development of a Rural Health Network on the Outer Cape
  • Work with Outer Cape Community Solutions to support the growth of a Rural Health Network
  • As a Governance Member, provide support and project oversight of the HRSA Network Planning Grant for the Outer/Lower Cape

School Mental Health

  • Monthly Collaborative and Learning Group for School Counselors
  • Monitor the behavioral health needs of students and families

Children’s Behavioral Health Needs Assessment

SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) defines behavioral health as “the promotion of mental health, resilience and wellbeing; the treatment of mental and substance use disorders; and the support of those who experience and/or are in recovery from these conditions, along with their families and communities.” A comprehensive Needs Assessment promotes this holistic approach and provides much-needed data for ongoing initiatives. It will be a community-based, consumer-involved process that puts us in touch with our constituents and their specific needs, and provides a foundation for future updates and specific data collection.



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