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Expanded Behavioral Health Services in Miami County

Durkey HS
Grim HS
McGatha HS
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A new collaborative program designed to improve access to behavioral health services in Miami County is off and running.

The program is a project between Upper Valley Medical Center (UVMC), Samaritan Behavioral Health, Inc. (SBHI) and the Miami County Recovery Council (MCRC).  It was made possible in part by a Community Benefit Grant awarded by UVMC last year.  

“Upper Valley is committed to our responsibility as a good neighbor in the community we serve,” said Becky Rice, UVMC President and CEO. “Grant recipient programs such as this are critical to providing more access to important health care services for our local underserved populations.”

The collaborative behavioral health project was initiated around 18 months ago by Tom Parker, former UVMC CEO, who saw a need for more mental health services in Miami County, said Sue McGatha, President and CEO of SBHI.  

“He thought if MCRC and Samaritan Behavioral Health did something together, it would create more robust mental health and addiction services in the county,” she said. 

The agreed to approach was to create an integrated care delivery model in which the whole person is treated through offering mental health/substance abuse services along with primary care medical services. The initial target audience is individuals with mental health or addiction needs who are seen at the UVMC emergency department or at primary care physician offices.

The project’s first phase involved the hiring by the Recovery Council of a staff person as a Community Care Liaison (CCL). The CCL works with those who seek care at the hospital emergency department needing behavioral health services, but are not admitted to the inpatient psychiatric unit, said Thom Grim, MCRC executive director.

The Community Care Liaison follows up with each individual and provides assistance in their contact with appropriate providers and support services until they meet with an addiction or mental health agency. The overall goal is to provide the needed links to services for each individual in order to reduce repeat trips to hospital emergency departments, where care is more expensive.

David “Duke” Durkey was hired by the Recovery Council as the first CCL and began his work in November. As of mid-January, Durkey, who has a background in mental health work with people of all ages, had received nearly 60 referrals. Among those he has encountered are people who have never sought treatment for behavioral health symptoms and are suffering needlessly, Durkey said. 

“Some people are uneducated about local resources for treatment and intimidated by the process of obtaining them,” he said. “I would act as a liaison between the patient and local treating agencies to ensure that the patient is connected to those resources and would be provided with a stable and permanent solution for their treatment instead of receiving only brief relief at the Emergency Department.”

The reaction to his inquiries has been surprising, Durkey said. “In some cases I encounter gratitude from people simply for inquiring about their well-being and situation. With only minimal information provided about local resources, some people can pursue their own connection to resources,” he said.

The collaboration’s second phase, planned for later this year, will involve office space for behavioral health providers next to a physicians’ office at UVMC’s Outpatient Care Center/North off Looney Road in Piqua.  By having the offices next door, the primary care physician within minutes can refer a patient to the behavioral health professionals, consult on cases and obtain information on potential behavioral health conditions.

“We see many folks in our behavioral health work who have serious physical health issues that need to be treated,” McGatha said.

This concept of integrated care has been increasing in use the past few years, Grim said. “For those providing primary care, behavioral health issues may not be detected because of the length time spent with a patient and/or lack of experience identifying symptoms during brief interaction of a regular office visit,” he said. 

“Historically, behavioral health clients will not get their physical/medical needs met for a variety of reasons. There is a tendency to not see physicians unless necessary (thus diminishing the chances of early detection), financial limitations and transportation-related issues all factor into a general neglect of self-care in many cases,” he added.

McGatha said organizers are pleased with the program so far, noting the project’s bottom line is to create “more access to behavioral health and physical health care services and, through that access, to produce good, positive outcomes.” 

To learn more, contact Thom Grim at 335-4543 ext. 143 / tgrim@mcrcinc.org, or Nancy Bleil at 734-3462 / nebleil@premierhealth.com

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