CHD recently received a $1 million grant from the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to integrate primary care and behavioral health services in one setting. The grant is one of 128 awarded across the country totaling $127 million to expand Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics (CCBHCs) in the US.
“This CCBHC award for CHD will enable us to advance the true integration of primary care services into mental healthcare,” said CHD Senior VP of Medical Services Jalil Johnson. “It will fully pair the two disciplines together to serve people with the most acute and serious issues.”
In the first phase, the grant will enable CHD to add infrastructure and a dozen staff to its Outpatient Behavioral Health Clinic on Park Street in West Springfield in the next year. CCBHCs are required to provide a range of services, including crisis services that are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and to provide routine outpatient care within 10 business days after an initial contact. Initially, the services will be mostly oriented to people the agency already serves and focus on groups who have increased needs, including individuals with severe mental illness and veterans with acute conditions, including trauma.
The CCBHC model of care coordination focuses on the whole person, looking at the complete picture of a person’s needs and concerns. Johnson said that often, in the US, a primary health provider and a mental health provider tend to struggle to collaborate with one another because they typically work in entirely separate health systems. “Bringing this all together, with mental health providers and primary care providers, under one roof and on one team, will undoubtedly improve coordination and collaboration—and, we hope, improve outcomes, too,” said Johnson. “Importantly, we are hopeful that people receiving care will have a better overall healthcare experience in this healthcare delivery model.”
This model is innovative, according to Johnson, because customarily such integration involves bringing behavioral health clinicians into a primary care practice. “We are doing a reverse integration in that we are bringing the primary care practice fully into a behavioral health clinic and operating as one team, which is not common,” he said. “Rather than using physical medicine or exams as the catalyst for accessing mental health services, we plan to use a mental health or substance diagnosis—often the most common or clear way people arrive for care or services—as an inroads to medical interventions and support,” said Johnson.
Johnson said that past evidence has demonstrated that mental health and substance use challenges are powerful influences on a person’s overall health—not just in terms of acute events, but in long-term preventive care. “So it makes sense for providers to be taking the next strides in addressing both mental and physical health on an equal footing, and for the first time devoting equivalent resources to both sides of the equation,” he said.
Within the next year, there will be additional announcements from CHD about when these new services will be available. The agency’s goal is to eventually grow these services for more people and communities.