Local Three-Way Partnership Tackles Behavioral and Mental Health Primary Care

Barb White, Lisa Thomas, Amy Hobbs, and Jay Brooke

Southeast Mental Health, Partnership for Progress, and High Plains Community Health Center Tackle Behavioral and Mental Health and Primary Care

Under the auspices of what is being described as one the most important healthcare grants received in Colorado, Southeast Mental Health Services (SEMHS) and its subsidiary, Partnership for Progress (PFP), along with High Plains Community Health Center (HPCHC) are demonstrating the integration of primary care medicine with mental and behavioral (i.e. substance abuse) healthcare. The three entities form 1 of 11 collaborating sites across the state.

The initiative, called Advancing Care Together (ACT), is being funded by a three-year grant from the Colorado Health Foundation. The project’s leaders hope their work establishes Colorado as a forerunner in addressing the integration of mental and behavioral health with primary care.

The innovators at SEMHS and HPCHC were selected as grant recipients based on their track record of collaboration, beginning in 2005, when SEMHS placed a full-time mental health clinician at the High Plains Community Health Center.

Thanks to ACT funding and to the joint leadership of HPCHC, SEMHS and PFP, space has been added at HPCHC to house a substance abuse counselor. Patient referrals and treatment have begun.

Next steps include integrating medical and dental records for shared patients, creating streamlined mental and behavioral health and substance-abuse screening tools, and providing staff with additional training on clinical addiction.

In the spirit of innovation, the program is being evaluated by experts at the University of Oregon Health Sciences Center. They will assess selected outcomes and the financial viability of the various initiatives. The University of Colorado’s Department of Family Medicine and HealthTeamWorks, a Lakewood, Colo.-based nonprofit; provide technical assistance in the form of tools, training and work-flow assessments, as needed.

“The partners in this project fully intend to create a cutting-edge, rural integration ‘best-practice’ site at High Plains Community Health Center,” says Jay Brooke, HPCHC Executive Director. “We want to contribute to the research by implementing a documented, fully-integrated behavioral health care home that meets or exceeds the expectations set by the Health Resources Service Administration and the Bureau of Primary Health Care.”

By Caitlin O’Neill, MS, RD

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