Frequently Asked Questions

Do you have a few questions? We thought you might. Take a look at our Frequently Asked Questions page to see if we’ve already answered it. If not, feel free to send us an email with your questions.

Let us know what you think!

There is this amazing program for the chronically ill homeless population in North Carolina. Can we do something like that in Orange County?

Innovation funding cannot be used to replicate a program that exists not only in California, but in any other area of the country.  Innovation projects are research projects. Their main focus is not on service delivery, but on learning. The project must be entirely new or changed in a way that will give us the opportunity to learn something new that could contribute to the transformation of the mental health system.

Our agency has a small program that has been very successful and we would like to expand it to other areas in the county. Can this be done with Innovation funding?

Innovation funds cannot be used for expanding existing services.

I have not been able to find a support group for (a very specific population). Can Innovation funds be used to start a group like this?

Probably not.  No matter how specific a target population is, there is most likely a similar support group somewhere in the United States or an existing group may be expanded to include this population.

I heard Innovation has unspent funds. Can we use this money?

Innovation funds cannot be spent without prior approval from the Mental Health Services Oversight and Accountability Commission (MHSOAC).  Prior to this, the MHSOAC requires that the County Board of Supervisors approve each project proposal . Once this occurs, each project idea and proposed budget must be presented to and approved by the MHSOAC.  Any unspent dollars cannot be added to existing Innovation projects unless the request is first presented to and approved by the MHSOAC. Unspent dollars cannot be moved to a different MHSA component such as PEI or CSS.  For specific information about the Regulations please visit our homepage or the MHSOAC website at (insert website link to the pdf version of the regs).

How is Innovation different from Prevention and Early Intervention (PEI)?

Both PEI and Innovation are funded through the Mental Health Services Act (MHSA) and the use of this funding is approved by the Mental Health Services Oversight and Accountability Commission (MHSOAC), but they have differing purposes and requirements:


Innovation projects focus on research and learning rather than service delivery. Projects must include a primary purpose of one or more of the following:

  • Increasing access to underserved groups;
  • Increasing the quality of services;
  • Promoting interagency collaboration and increasing access to services.

These projects are time limited and are funded for a maximum of five years. At the end of the project, the County must decide if funding will continue from another area.


Prevention and Early Intervention programs are intended to prevent mental illnesses from becoming severe and disabling. Fifty-One percent of PEI funds must be used to serve those who are 25 years of age or younger.  These programs are not time limited and must include programs that address specific areas such as:

  • Early Intervention;
  • Outreach for Increasing Recognition of Early Signs of Mental Illness;
  • Prevention;
  • Access and Linkage to Treatment; and
  • Stigma and Discrimination Reduction.

Why does it take so long to start an Innovation project?

The process involves several steps:

  • The first step involves the community planning process.
  • Once a promising idea is found, ideas are taken to the MHSA Steering Committee for review and ranking in order of priority.
  • After this, HCA staff develop the proposal within Mental Health Services Oversight and Accountability Commission (MHSOAC) guidelines. This process includes working with MHSOAC staff on how best to present the project. Several documents must be completed and submitted to OAC staff including a project proposal that addresses all of the required elements. This document is often around 30 pages.
  • All proposals must then be presented to the MHSOAC at their monthly meetings. Getting on their calendar can take several months.
  • Once presented and approved, HCA must then begin the mandated procurement process in order to choose a contracted provider. This process may take 9-12 months.
  • The last part is getting the final approval from the Orange County Board of Supervisors.

What happens after an Innovation project ends?

All Innovation projects can only be funded through Innovation money for a maximum of five years. Once a project has reached the end of five years, a decision will be made whether to continue the project using another funding source. In the past, the Orange County Health Care Agency (HCA) has recommended that certain projects be continued via other available funds and has sought agreement from the Orange County MHSA Steering Committee. If no alternative source of funding is available, the project must be discontinued.

Whether or not the project continues, a final report must be submitted to the Mental Health Services Oversight and Accountability Commission (MHSOAC). This report includes specific information such as project description, outcomes, lessons learned, significant changes made to the program, etc.

I submitted an idea, now what happens?

The idea will be reviewed and posted within 3 business days on the Community Forum page. Any personal information from the idea form will be removed before posting. Please note, automatic notifications will not be sent out, therefore check the status of submissions regularly.

The Community Forum will allow community members to provide input or feedback. In addition, the Innovation team will post questions or comments regarding the idea submitted within 10 business days from the date the idea was posted on the Community Forum.

Project ideas will be available for community feedback for 60 calendar days.

Why wasn’t my idea considered innovative?

Often, it is because there is another program that is providing the same service in the same way or the idea does not contribute to learning new practices or approaches in mental health.  We will provide comments in the public forum about how it did not meet innovation criteria and seek comments on how to change the project to include an innovative component.

How do I submit an idea?

Please go to the “Ideas” page on the website and follow the directions on how to submit an idea. You must first watch a brief video on the required elements for a project. After this, an idea form will appear. Complete the form, submit it and we will contact you when it has been received.

What if I don’t finish the form? Can I come back to it?

If cookies are enabled and you have not cleared your history, you should be able to come back to the form. Contact the Innovation team if you have technical difficulties with the site.

Let us know what you think!

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