Integrating Behavioral Health into Primary Care in Six New Jersey Clinics: Kennedy Family Health Services
Kennedy Family Health Services is a component of Kennedy Health, an integrated health system in southern New Jersey that offers a full array of healthcare services, both in the hospital and outpatient setting. Kennedy Family Health Services is an ambulatory outpatient facility that provides primary care services for low-income patient of all ages. It has two locations, in Somerdale and Washington Township.
This project supports the implementation of Cherokee Health System’s model of integrated care into Kennedy Family Health Services at its Somerdale location. First, Cherokee trains selected leadership staff in the model at a 2-day Integrated Training Academy, held at Cherokee’s Knoxville, Tennessee, location. Cherokee then works closely with Kennedy to recruit and hire behavioral health consultants (BHCs), who are embedded in the clinic’s primary care teams. The BHCs also are trained in the Cherokee model. Once the project is staffed, Cherokee works with the clinic on an ongoing basis to operationalize and sustain the integrated care model. This involves evaluating and adapting clinical flow practices and clinical spaces to facilitate the integration of behavioral health into primary care services, providing onsite training and periodic clinical coaching calls to improve the quality and quantity of brief behavioral health interventions that BHCs provide, and instituting practices to facilitate effective communication between the BHCs and primary care teams.
The project also incorporates several strategies that foster Kennedy’s commitment to this initiative and enhance the likelihood of long-term sustainability. Cherokee holds periodic calls with Kennedy’s leadership team that provide an opportunity for the team to create a vision for integrated care, discuss communication and patient outreach efforts, and consider quality improvement and financial sustainability issues. Cherokee also trains clinic staff in billing procedures that maximize reimbursement for delivering integrated care. In addition, Cherokee works with staff to track and document the process of implementing the integrated care model and to measure the impact of this practice transformation effort on patient outcomes and clinic operations.
Kennedy is one of six primary care sites participating in this care integration initiative. To build cohesion across the sites, Cherokee holds periodic conference calls with all the sites. These gives the sites an opportunity to provide peer support, learn from each other’s experiences, and share success and challenges. The other sites participating in the initiative are:
AtlantiCare Special Care Center
Eric B. Chandler Health Center
Hackensack Meridian Family Health Center
Metropolitan Family Health Network
Visiting Nurse Association of Central Jersey
Kennedy University Hospital Family Health Center