Kennedy Health Receives $225,000 Grant from The Nicholson Foundation to Support Integrated Behavioral Health Care
Funding Will Allow Thousands of Medicaid Recipients to Receive Vital Behavioral Health Treatments in Primary Care Settings
Kennedy Health has been awarded a $225,000 grant from The Nicholson Foundation to implement the Cherokee Health Systems’ model of providing integrated behavioral health interventions in primary care settings. Kennedy Health is one of six New Jersey healthcare organizations selected for this initiative. The grant will fund a full-time Behavioral Health Specialist at Kennedy Family Health Services in Somerdale, NJ.
The Cherokee Health Systems’ model is an integrated, team-based, financially sustainable approach to patient care pioneered in Knoxville, TN, that is proven to improve patient health outcomes. The model calls for the placement of a Behavioral Health Consultant within a primary care team so that patients’ behavioral health issues (including mental health and substance abuse) can be addressed simultaneously with their physical health issues.
“Improving access to Behavioral Health services has been a priority at Kennedy Health for several decades,” said President & CEO Joseph W. Devine, FACHE, who, in 2015, was a driving force behind the establishment of the South Jersey Behavioral Health Innovation Collaborative (SJBHIC), a landmark initiative driven by the five major health systems in the region aimed at evaluating and recommending substantial improvements to the behavioral health system in the region. “As one of the largest providers of behavioral health services in South Jersey, this grant will make a huge difference in the lives of patients in our communities.”
Through the grant, Kennedy Health will receive training and significant technical assistance from Cherokee Health Systems. The grant also supports additional staff salaries. Physicians, nurse practitioners, behavioral health consultants, and other providers will work as a team to provide integrated care for their patients.
“Integrated, team-based care will greatly improve overall healthcare for vulnerable patients in New Jersey,” said Barbara Kang, Senior Healthcare Program Officer of The Nicholson Foundation. “Although behavioral health has traditionally been separated from the physical healthcare delivery system, a solid research and clinical consensus has existed for decades that integrated clinics that treat the ‘whole person’ produce better outcomes for individuals while lowering total costs to the system.”
Behavioral healthcare is in short supply in New Jersey, especially for Medicaid patients and other vulnerable populations. The Mental Health Association in New Jersey has estimated average wait times for community-based mental health outpatient services of three to six months in most NJ counties. When people are unable to receive behavioral health treatment at the time they seek it, research shows their conditions are likely to remain untreated – and often get worse.
The $1,350,000 in funding provided over the 15-month grant period will help narrow the gap between the need for treatment and its availability. Patients with mild-to-moderate behavioral health issues will be treated in the primary care setting, before their conditions become acute—which allows behavioral health specialists to concentrate on those with more severe issues.
“Our ultimate goal is to make integrated care ‘the new normal’ throughout the state of New Jersey,” said Arturo Brito, Executive Director of The Nicholson Foundation. “Our intention is to continue supporting the expansion of the Cherokee model to more clinics in the future, thereby transforming the way care is delivered to vulnerable populations in New Jersey.”