The Maine Health Access Foundation (MeHAF) announced that its Board of Trustees has approved planning grants of $25,000 each to five nonprofit community mental health organizations to improve how basic primary care services are provided for people experiencing serious mental illness. The organizations receiving awards are Aroostook Mental Health Services, Inc., Charlotte White Center, HealthReach Network Mental Health & Substance Abuse Services, The Opportunity Alliance, and Tri-County Mental Health Services.
"Evidence shows that people with serious mental illness die 25 years sooner on average than their peers, yet this higher risk of death is not due to untreated mental health issues. It stems from chronic, physical health conditions that too often go untreated," noted MeHAF President and CEO, Dr. Wendy Wolf. "These grants will allow mental health providers to develop a framework for integrating primary care services within their community mental health centers so the centers can serve as a comprehensive 'health home' for their patients. This new approach will ensure that people with serious mental illness receive higher quality care in a more cost-effective and timely way. Primary care will be coordinated by the mental health providers these patients already trust. "
The grants are part of a new phase in a long-term commitment by MeHAF to improve the coordination of primary care services with medical specialty care, behavioral health services, and oral health care.
Dr. Becky Hayes Boober, MeHAF Senior Program Officer overseeing the grants, commented, "These grants will help community mental health organizations become what the MaineCare and federal Affordable Care Act (ACA) call 'Behavioral Health Homes.' A 'Behavioral Health Home' is not a place but a new way of coordinating patient care and community services. People with serious mental illness will receive screening for physical health issues when they visit their community mental health center. If health issues are identified, they will be connected with primary care providers. MeHAF is excited to work with this group of committed providers and MaineCare to explore how to improve the health of people with serious mental illness."
Organizations receiving Behavioral Health Homes grants:
Aroostook Mental Health Services, Inc. (dba AMHC)
Project: Develop Behavioral Health Home (BHH) services in seven outpatient clinic sites throughout Aroostook, Hancock and Washington Counties
Charlotte White Center
Project: Design a rural BHH for adults with serious mental illness in Piscataquis County
HealthReach Network Mental Health & Substance Abuse Services
Project: Establish a collaborative including several community behavioral health organizations with extensive experience with integrated care to explore best practices for creating BHHs in Kennebec and Somerset Counties
The Opportunity Alliance
Project: Create a BHH in Portland to meet the primary care, behavioral health and community living needs of those living with severe and persistent mental illness and other chronic health conditions
Tri-County Mental Health Services
Project: Coordinate and integrate service for people with severe and persistent mental illness by incorporating services of a full-time Nurse Practitioner into the Community Mental Health Center in Lewiston and by integrating care with area primary care providers.
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