1. They received a $4 million grant about a year ago to improve whole-person care in the area

Lachelle Freeman, a grant project director with Partners Behavioral Health Management, said the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) grant offers $1 million annually over four years. Partners is using the funding to increase access to mental health services for children and families by training local health care providers and connecting pediatricians and physicians to a network of mental health professionals and service providers, Freeman said.

The grant serves Gaston, Lincoln, Burke and Iredell counties, and the primary focus is providing better support for children with mental health disorders that impact their daily lives. The idea, Freeman said, is for a child to be able to go to the doctor to get a routine physical but also be directed to other types of care if their mental or social health is impacting his or her overall wellbeing.

2. During the first year of funding, training was provided

Partners wrapped up its first year of SAMHSA funding on Sept. 30, and the new year started Oct. 1. During the first year, Freeman said Partners focused on education and training. Partners manages and promotes the Triple P Positive Parenting Program, so they used the grant to provide training for 20 health care professionals across Gaston, Lincoln, Burke and Iredell counties. Health care providers trained in Triple P technique can give parents “simple and practical strategies to help them build strong, healthy relationships, confidently manage their children’s behavior and prevent problems (from developing),” according to the Triple P website. This training, Freeman said, will help parents gain a better understanding of what services their child may need to improve his or her overall health – not just the physical component.

3. The first integrated care facility is in Gaston County

Last month Partners started working with Piedmont Adult & Pediatric Medicine Associates, P.A in Gaston. Professionals in the office were trained on Partners’ approach to health care and connected to a network of other trusted health professionals chosen by Partners that they can refer patients to. Freeman said the pediatric clinics are “gateways” to addressing overall health, so partnering with them is important.

Children can go to the clinic for a routine exam, and then “they’re able to have a warm handoff to a live person who can help connect them to another person.” Freeman called it a “team-based approach” where instead of doctors giving a pamphlet with phone numbers to call, they can connect families directly to someone who can help and understand why that person could be of help to their child.

4. A facility has not yet been selected in Lincoln County

The plan, Freeman said, is to partner with a pediatric clinic in Lincoln County, similar to the one Gaston. She said they’ve been talking with several in the area, and the goal is to have a partnership solidified and a contract signed by the end of year. The search for a facility wanting to incorporate Partners’ approach has been going on for about a year, and Freeman said she’s been working on other avenues to get the word out, too. Partners has been working with Communities in Schools as well as schools in Lincoln County to share information on whole-person care and educate staff on the referral process. She said it’s important to spread the word because Partners is able to help provide mental health care for those with private insurance – oftentimes this kind of care is an out-of-pocket expense for those not covered by Medicaid, Freeman said.

5. Partners has several goals and ideas for improving the overall health of the community

Freeman said the goal over the next three years is to work on making a collective impact. “It’s a way to make population health changes,” she said. Instead of pediatricians, mental health professionals and other health providers functioning separately, the hope is to come up with one goal “in terms of social determinants of health” and ways to measure the success of their plan to achieve that goal, Freeman said. She’d like to host public forums where children and families who are receiving or think they’d like to receive these services can weigh in and sit at the table with professional health care providers.

To learn more about this program, call 1-888-235-4673 or visit www.providers.partnersbhm.org/partners-nc-systems-of-care-expansion.

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