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State Health-Care Entity Seeks Information

The department is contemplating IT work and wants to hear from private-sector vendors.

The state department charged with financing and administering several key health-care service delivery programs including Medi-Cal is seeking information from vendors on virtual services.

In a request for information (RFI) released July 6, the California Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) indicates it may seek a “business services vendor” to stand up and maintain “virtual behavioral health services and supports that integrate behavioral health screenings, application-based supports, and direct behavioral health services to children” and people under 25 “regardless of payer.” Among the takeaways:

  • In this RFI, DHCS is looking for information to “inform planning, design, development and launch of the behavioral health virtual services (BHVS) by January 2024.” The endeavor is part of the Children and Youth Behavioral Health Initiative (CYBHI), created in the 2021-2022 Fiscal Year state budget and “grounded in equity,” according to the RFI, a “multiyear, multi-department package of investments that seeks to reimagine the systems, regardless of payer, that support behavioral health for all California's children, youth and their families.” The department may use the responses it receives to create a scope of work for a future solicitation for the BHVS. The department hopes this RFI will help it identify potential vendors who provide “product” aka technology and data; “operational,” i.e., workforce; and “implementation,” or change management services and/or solutions to one or more of its business needs. DHCS wants to determine what supports may be needed to manage such a solution, and refine the potential solution’s “scope, schedule and approximate costs” both one-time and ongoing to set a budget and time for the procurement.
  • The CYBHI, per the RFI, will be “designed and implemented in partnership with children, youth, parents/caregivers,” plus stakeholders from lower and higher education and community partners including “behavioral health providers, primary care providers/clinics, county behavioral health departments, Medi-Cal managed care plans, commercial health plans, and other state departments in the California Health and Human Services Agency (CHHS).” DHCS is under CHHS.
  • The department’s vision is to promote adoption of “behavioral health virtual services” for children, young people and families that is supportive of the delivery of “equitable, appropriate and timely behavioral health services from prevention to treatment to recovery.” This RFI, the department said, is an effort to understand “the market for services to support the initial implementation of the BHVS by Jan. 1, 2024.” The BHVS must deliver “linguistic access” through all Medi-Cal “threshold languages” and be culturally appropriate. It could be available to children and young people via “multiple modalities” including an online portal, smartphone apps, a call center or “warm line services,” text chat or telephone. DHCS seeks functions and capabilities including “educational resources, tools and games” such as “self-serve behavioral health games, videos, podcasts, articles”; behavioral health screenings, peer and coaching support, access to virtual services, connection to a “statewide network of community-based organizations” for behavioral health services and support; closed-loop referrals and e-consults with medical professionals.
  • Vendors are asked to provide a “high-level cost estimate/cost model” for the services or solutions described, including design, configuration, data conversion, training and deployment as well as the subscriptions and license required. They’re also asked to detail their primary business focus, areas of expertise, relevant certifications or credentials, and experience working with state or local government. Vendors should also explain their “ability to execute specific capability-related use cases,” cover the “vendor-owned products that enable their services/solutions” like technology and data, and cover data, security and privacy capabilities.
  • DHCS notes this RFI is purely for information and planning and doesn’t constitute a solicitation. Responses aren’t offers and won’t “enhance the review” of any future proposal to a solicitation. The department asks respondents to share “non-binding budgetary pricing information” for planning purposes. Questions for “clarification purposes” are due by 4 p.m. Monday. Responses are due by 4 p.m. Aug. 3.
Theo Douglas is Assistant Managing Editor of Industry Insider — California.