Integrating Behavioral Health into Primary Care in Six New Jersey Clinics: Hackensack Meridian Family Health Center
Hackensack Meridian Health is an integrated health care system located throughout New Jersey. It comprises 12 hospitals and partner companies that provide ambulatory care, surgical care, urgent care, home care, hospice, and assisted living services. Hackensack Meridian’s Family Health Center provides primary care services to low-income, uninsured, and underinsured patients served by the Jersey Shore University Medical Center in Neptune and Asbury Park.
This project supports the implementation of Cherokee Health System’s model of integrated care into the Family Health Center’s services. 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 the Family Health Center 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 the Family Health Center’s commitment to this initiative and enhance the likelihood of long-term sustainability. Cherokee holds periodic calls with the Family Health Center’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.
The Family Health Center 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
Kennedy Family Health Services
Metropolitan Family Health Network
Visiting Nurse Association of Central Jersey
Hackensack Meridian Health