BY BENJAMIN J. GOHS, EDITOR
Poor and uninsured people dealing with mental illness and substance abuse will get more and better care thanks to a recent grant to Munson Healthcare Boyne Area Health Center.
The $96,250 grant, part of $535,000 given to six Michigan “safety net providers,” will allow the Boyne Area Health Center to hire a full-time behavioral health therapist.
“This grant will allow us to widen our array of services offered in Boyne City at our two facilities: Munson Healthcare Boyne Area Health Center (BAHC) and Munson Healthcare Boyne Rehab Center (BRC). Specifically, it will allow us to embed a behavioral and mental health therapist at Munson Healthcare Boyne Area Health Center with access to a psychiatrist at Munson Healthcare Charlevoix Hospital, who will be available to see any patient within the practice as well as patients referred by physicians outside of our healthcare system,” said Chelsea Platte, Executive Director of the Munson Healthcare Charlevoix Hospital Foundation.
The grant moneys came from a combination of groups including Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Foundation, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, and the Ethel and James Flinn Foundation.
“Michigan residents who are under-insured or lack health insurance often depend on safety net providers to receive primary care,” said Lynda Rossi, executive vice president of Strategy and Public Affairs at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan in a Friday Sept. 23 press release. “This funding will help providers expand that care to identify and address mental health and substance abuse concerns, so patients get the full range of care they need in one setting. Grants like this support Blue Cross’ ongoing commitment to strengthening the safety net, which ultimately leads to improved long-term health and lower costs for all.”
Audrey Harvey, vice president and CEO of the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Foundation, said the programs are intended to measure their successes so other areas across the state may eventually institute similar programs.
“It provides greater access to behavioral and mental health services, an area that is under-served across the country and critically so in rural regions such as ours,” said Platte.
“It also provides access in a convenient setting that already offers primary and urgent care visits.”
She added, “Integrating primary and mental health care is one of the most significant ways the healthcare system can achieve the triple-aim goals of improving outcomes, enhancing the patient experience, and decreasing cost.”
According to Platte, an increasing number of patients with behavioral disorders or mental health needs are seeking care from their primary care provider.
And, she said, by offering an access point for mental health services, it provides more convenient and private access for patients in an environment that they find familiar and acceptable.
It also encourages a collaborative effort between psychiatrists, behavioral health consultants and primary care clinicians to provide efficient, whole-person care.
BAHC is a rural health clinic, with seven primary care providers and over 15,000 visits in 2015.
They are designated as a patient-centered medical home, meaning they share the philosophy that care is patient-centered—comprehensive, team-based, coordinated, accessible, and focused on quality and safety.
“Providing behavioral and mental health services with the assistance of this grant allows us to better care for the whole person, mind and body,” said Platte.
The Boyne Area Health Center is a recently expanded primary care facility which offers urgent care visits to existing patients in addition to offering access for certain ob-gyn and lab procedures.
Right next to the health center is the Munson Healthcare Boyne Rehab Center, which provides numerous rehabilitative services like physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, and aquatic therapy.
Ultimately, Platte said, the grant moneys will help cover initial costs of embedding the therapist into the health center’s practice for the first year as they further develop the program.
“It will partially cover salaries and supplies needed to get the program off the ground and operating optimally for the needs of the patients in the community,” she said.
“A program of this nature is a new, innovative approach, and the grant funds allow us the lead time of a year to evaluate the best way to implement it.”
Matt Lori, innovations grant coordinator for Michigan Department of Health and Human Services said, “This public-private partnership is another great example of how foundations, Michigan-based companies and the state can team up to have a long-term, positive impact on the health of Michiganders. Low-income Michigan residents who have limited health insurance or no coverage at all depend on these providers, and these grants support a new avenue for treatment.”
For more information about the Munson Healthcare Charlevoix Hospital Foundation, go to munsonhealthcare.org/charlevoixgiving.