The Nicholson Foundation has awarded six organizations $225,000 each to support their efforts to integrate behavioral healthcare in their primary care clinics and practices. The selected organizations, which serve large numbers of Medicaid and uninsured patients, include Eric B. Chandler Health Center (New Brunswick), Visiting Nurse Association of Central Jersey Community Health Center (Asbury Park), AtlantiCare (Atlantic City), Metropolitan Family Health Network (Jersey City), Kennedy Family Health Services (Somerdale), and Hackensack Meridian Family Health Center (Neptune). In 2016, the six clinic and practice sites collectively served approximately 42,000 patients.
Through the grants, the selected organizations will implement a model of integrated, team-based patient care pioneered by Cherokee Health Systems of Knoxville, Tennessee. In this model, a behavioral health consultant is embedded within a primary care team so that patients’ behavioral health issues (including mental health and substance misuse) can be addressed simultaneously with their physical health issues. 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.
The Nicholson Foundation’s latest grants are part of its ongoing effort to fund strategies that better meet the needs of the underserved and that can be brought to scale to transform healthcare delivery in New Jersey. Beginning in 2013, the Foundation piloted the Cherokee Health Systems’ model at two Federally Qualified Health Centers (Henry J. Austin Health Center in Trenton and CHEMED in Lakewood). The six new grants will spread this successful model to many more patients, helping to narrow the gap between the urgent need for behavioral health treatment and its availability in the safety net.