A yearlong initiative to address the rising need for behavioral health services began Wednesday with the launch of the South Jersey Behavioral Health Innovation Collaborative, a partnership among five southern New Jersey health systems, the New Jersey Hospital Association and the Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers.In 2013, the five systems conducted a joint community needs assessment that identified mental health and substance abuse services as one of the Top Five health issues facing the region. Now they are committed to spending the next year studying data and engaging with patients, families, providers and other stakeholders to identify the challenges of meeting community needs. And the collaborative will look at programs around the country and the state that have successfully improved behavioral health care.
The five health care systems are Cooper University Health Care; Inspira Health Network; Kennedy Health; Lourdes Health System; and Virtua.
“Our members are committed to making changes that address the needs of the communities they serve. If it is the intersection of policy that doesn’t make sense, or system issues that challenge the delivery of high quality care, their teams are working on innovative practice changes that will help redefine the behavioral health care system as we know it today,” said NJHA Chief Executive Betsy Ryan.
Data from NJHA show a steady rise in demand for behavioral health services, throughout New Jersey and in the southern part of the state.
According to NJHA’s Acute Care Hospital Behavioral Health Volume Report, in 2013, more than a half-million patients were treated for psychiatric and substance abuse concerns and discharged back into the community. In 2013, 39 percent of the inpatient admissions from southern New Jersey residents had a primary or secondary diagnosis of behavioral health.
Between 2009 and 2013, the number of ER visits by southern New Jersey residents whose primary diagnosis was a behavioral health condition increased 20 percent, and on average, more than 100 people a day from southern New Jersey come to the ERs with behavioral health as their primary concern, according to NJHA.
Mary Ditri, director of professional practice at NJHA, said: “This is the first project of its kind in the state. Five hospitals have come together to invest significant resources to really effect changes in the way patients in need of mental health and substance disorder treatment make their way through our system. What is really exciting is they are not doing it alone. It is something they recognize involves a whole host of stakeholders.”
Click here to subscribe to the NJBIZ e-newsletters
The Camden Coalition of Health Care Providers for more than a decade has pioneered the use of health care data to figure out when and how patients access the health care system, and then create treatment models designed to provide ongoing, non-emergency care of the chronically ill.
Ditri said the Camden Coalition will help the collaborative “really map the system of care in their region of the state in a way it’s never been done before.”
In addition to analyzing data, the Camden Coalition will interview stakeholders — including patients, providers, payers, academics and policymakers.
Meanwhile, NJHA will “help identify policies at the federal and state level that either conflict with each other or overlap in ways that impede providers from doing the things they need to do in order to get people into care “
She said the 12-month project “is an opportunity for us to look at the system like it’s never been looked at before. Instead of just assuming that we don’t have enough beds or we don’t have enough community treatment providers, to really look at the system as a whole and understand where the problems lie.”
She said the hospitals “know there is high demand; there are long waits for service.” She said the hospital systems “also realize that patients being served in one hospital are probably being served in more than one of the other hospitals.”
“One hospital and one clinic can’t solve this systemic behavioral health crisis; it operates at the community level. People are not getting the treatment they so desperately need,” said Dr. Jeffrey C. Brenner, executive director and medical director of the Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers.
The research carried out over the next year will answer such questions as: “Where are the gaps in service and where are the effective services? How are patients getting the care and the treatment they need and what can we learn from those mechanisms that are already in place?”
Ditri said, “It’s not just about finding out what isn’t working, it’s about finding out what is working and learning from that.”
That effort began Wednesday, when the collaborative heard a presentation from Dr. James Schuster about his Pennsylvania program that successfully integrates primary care and behavioral health care. Ditri said that, this summer, the collaborative will hear a presentation about an innovative program in northern California that helps individuals access community behavioral health services rather than seeking hospital care.
Alexander J. Hatala, chief executive of Lourdes Health System, said, “The people we serve — patients and families — need a system of care that promotes early detection and access to community-based services, thus reducing the need for hospitalization.”
“The creation and commitment of this collaborative initiative provides the region’s health systems an opportunity to take the lead in helping resolve a challenging issue for the community,” said Kennedy Health Chief Executive Joseph W. Devine. “This isn’t an individual problem or a family problem. The problems that exist in the mental health delivery system today affect many people in our communities. Now is the time to address this challenge and implement real solutions.”
“Mental illnesses rob individuals of both dignity and decades of life expectancy; but, unfortunately, the current system is heavily focused on those times a person is in crisis,” said Adrienne Kirby, chief executive of Cooper University Health Care. “Waiting until a crisis is imminent is an ineffective way to treat a chronic health condition. We need a new approach that facilitates more proactive management of mental illness. Cooper is proud to partner with our colleagues to find new opportunities to care for those patients who need our help.”
Virtua Chief Executive Richard P. Miller said, “We encounter a considerable number of patients annually who require mental health services which are not accessible, and this collaboration presents a unique opportunity to address the issue.”
John DiAngelo, chief executive of Inspira Health Network, said: “The members of this collaborative believe that we can — and that we must — help create a more effective and compassionate behavioral health system. By working together, we have a unique opportunity to gain a better understanding of the current situation in our region, learn from successful initiatives in other regions and determine what steps we must take to consistently provide high-quality behavioral health services to all who need them.”
ALSO ON NJBIZ:
$52M EDA incentive aims to bring 1,000-plus jobs to Piscataway
In N.H., Christie proposes raising national retirement age to 69
Montclair project’s ‘green’ features target millennials