ST. ALBANS — Two area health and human service organizations are partnering to provide comprehensive mental health services.
The Northern Tier Center for Health (NOTCH) and the Northwestern Counseling & Support Services (NCSS) have announced collaborative efforts to develop a plan for mental health treatment locally.
The result of the two organizations’ partnership is a model based on successful pilot programs, in which resources from both NOTCH and NCSS address needs in mental health primary care within the region, according to a press release issued Friday.
NOTCH has offices in Alburgh, Enosburg Falls, Richford, St. Albans, and Swanton. NCSS has headquarters in St. Albans.
The new program will focus on a wider range of services and more interaction with patients and care providers across all systems. NOTCH has traditionally used social workers co-located at primary care locations, but recent health care reform and other factors have led to the organization looking at different approaches.
Since 2010, NOTCH and NCSS have implemented programs with patients accessing both services for care. The 340B Pharmacy Collaboration had NCSS transfer all Meds on Time patients to the NOTCH Pharmacy.
With the new collaboration, clinical leaders from the organizations hold regularly scheduled meetings to coordinate care for common clients, to track their status and their referrals.
Some NOTCH employees also participated in the Mental Health First Aid program. The NOTCH staff in Enosburg Falls participated in a similar program as part of the Blue Print for Health action plan, which deals with integrative health care efforts.
Prior to the Blueprint for Health implementation, NOTCH entered into a contract with NCSS for behavioral health services at its St. Albans medical office. This pilot was successful in identifying more effective ways to coordinate care and provide support to both NOTCH patients and providers in their practice setting.
Wellness consultants have now been placed at all five NOTCH locations throughout Franklin County, meaning NCSS mental health specialists have direct access to patients in exam rooms. Providers can now be immediately consulted in relation to mental health screenings, care management, treatment and specialty referrals.
With patients have both consulting and short-term treatment options, the level of long-term care is greatly improved, according to a NCSS press release.
The blend of these services will allow for a more comprehensive and integrated model across all NOTCH practices. This type of integrated model allows providers to focus on specific conditions that create challenges and strains on existing resources and may result in poor outcomes due to uncoordinated care.
Examples of such conditions that could be a primary area of focus include depression and anxiety disorders, substance use disorders, medically assisted treatment (care management, brief treatment, specialty referral), interventions to reduce high emergency department utilization, chronic pain protocol to include group and coordination with specialists, and increasing pediatric behavioral health capacity.
The ultimate goal of this partnership, said both organizations, is to improve the health and wellness of the clients that are served by the NOTCH locations throughout Franklin and Grand Isle Counties. In addition, this provides an opportunity to realize savings by preventing and reducing medical and psychiatric hospitalizations and other high health care costs.