Collaborative care grant received by two GJ health practices

Primary Care Partners and Behavioral Health and Wellness, both at 3150 N. 12th St., are among 11 recipients of the Advancing Care Together grant.

The health-care-initiative investment group Colorado Health Foundation is sponsoring the grant, which will give Primary Care Partners and Behavioral Health and Wellness $50,000 a year for three years. The grant period began in September and will last through September 2014.

The grant is designed to improve collaborative care in Colorado. In most clinical settings, a patient sees a physician for a physical condition, and the doctor may refer the patient to a mental health provider to help the patient cope with a mental health issue, which may be connected to a physical condition.

Since 2004, physicians at Primary Care Partners sometimes have had joint meetings with mental health professionals from Behavioral Health and Wellness or introduced a patient to a mental health clinician. A 2000 study found 76 percent of patients keep a mental health appointment if a physician introduces the patient to a mental health clinician. Without that introduction, 44 percent of patients keep a mental health appointment scheduled by their physicians.

The current process at Primary Care Partners and Behavioral Health and Wellness helps reduce costs and improve the all-around health of patients, according to Cheryl Young, a licensed therapist with Behavioral Health and Wellness. The grant will allow mental health clinicians to be available more often for joint appointments with physicians and allow them to work more closely with other agencies, such as schools, Young said.

The grant will pay for a rotation of licensed mental health clinicians from Behavioral Health and Wellness to be available for collaborative care work at Primary Care Partners for a few hours each day in addition to the hours that person would usually work. Young said the grant also will give mental health clinicians more time to follow up with patients by phone and call schools about working with pediatric patients with mental health issues, and it will allow the two health care groups to improve their electronic-medical-records system.

Paying for that extra time would be difficult without a grant, Young said, because insurance companies often don’t reimburse mental health professionals for attending physician appointments.

“What the grant has done is try to make this model sustainable,” Young said.

Collaborative care, which means blending mental and physical health care, is cost-effective because it “captures patients at their greatest point of need,” during a health appointment, and makes it less likely patients will pay more by “seeking mental health care in an emergency room,” Young said.

The University of Oregon will study the Grand Junction agencies and five other grant recipients to see how cost-effective their collaborative-care systems are. The university will pull electronic-records data from the participating grant recipients, but patients will remain anonymous.


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