In response to opening speaker Howard Dean's call for reform and integration in our healthcare system, the first day of National Council's 40th National Mental Health and Addictions Expo provided attendees with a wealth of opportunities for learning the ins and outs of both reform and integration.
One of Monday's first workshops, "The Person-Centered Healthcare Home: Implementation Strategies," led by Barbara Mauer, MSW, CMC, of MCPP Healthcare Consulting, focused on the integration of primary and behavioral health services. Three different models for the co-location of these services were shared by representatives of three organizations that took on the challenge of integrating care at their sites:
1. Kimberly Shontz, LISW, of Community Support Services in Akron, Ohio;
2. Paul Tegenfeldt, MSW, of Navos and Wayne Webster, MD, MPH, of Neighborcare Health in Seattle; and
3. Barbara DiMauro, LCSW, of Bridges in Connecticut.
Each of these programs utilized different organizational structures and funding sources in order to get their integrated programs off the ground. For instance, while Community Support Services relied on local university students and faculty for its primary care staffing needs, Neighborcare Health shares Dr. Webster's services with Navos one afternoon per week. And while Bridges' primary care program (which it implemented in conjunction with several other Connecticut behavioral health providers) is funded through a SAMHSA grant, Community Support Services relies on a local foundation's financial support and the Navos-Neighborcare partnership relies on standard reimbursement.
Despite the different models used for the integration of care, all three organizations identified the same essentials for a successfully integrated program: cross-organizational collaboration and partnerships, ongoing communication, and staff buy in. Though the presenters acknowledge that it took a few wrong turns before they arrived at an effective model for integrated primary and behavioral healthcare, by taking the risk to develop their programs they have made a critical step toward remedying the low average life expectancy of those with severe mental illness.