New Resource for Traditionally Underserved Patients with Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders
People living with mental health and substance use disorders have a new resource with the creation of the University Hospitals (UH) Behavioral Health Hub in Westlake, a service provided by the UH Behavioral Health Institute.
“The Hub” is a first-of-its-kind facility in Northeast Ohio. It provides a crucial service currently missing from today’s behavioral health landscape – a comprehensive and integrated approach to caring for patients that focuses on long-term outcomes by utilizing high quality data monitoring – a key aspect of a value-based payment model. Goals include creating easy access in a particular geographic area that integrates with the larger health system, providing an individualized approach for each patient, regardless of insurance source, and enhancing overall quality of life. UH has now launched the Westlake location with plans to add additional Hubs across the region over the next three years.
Managing personal health and daily life can be a struggle for people living with mental health and substance use disorders. The unemployment rate among these groups is 45 percent. Their suicide risk is five to 10 times greater compared to the general population. We also know that those with mental health disorders live 10 to 25 years less compared to the general population. People in these groups can also suffer from health issues like diabetes, obesity, asthma, and congestive heart failure and may be less likely to successfully manage those diseases.
While many quality services exist in our communities for these patients, there are also many barriers that can prevent access to care. Furthermore, families often find it difficult to navigate the overall U.S. health system to connect with available services. And as a result, the health needs of those living with mental illness can be left unattended. In fact, our recent Community Health Needs Assessments show that this underserved population will benefit from better health and well-being by the enhanced care offered through this Hub concept.
Ohio is fortunate to have a forward-thinking Department of Medicaid which in 2018, modified its mental health coverage system from a publicly run system to a managed care model. Now, hospital systems like UH are more easily able to offer this specific type of care to individuals with mental health and substance use disorders on Medicaid.
“We recognize these changes as an opportunity to take better care of our community and to prevent more people from ‘slipping through the cracks,’” said Robert Ronis, MD, Chairman of Psychiatry at UH Cleveland Medical Center and co-director of the UH Behavioral Health Institute. “We want to simplify what can be a confusing array of services and impossible systems to navigate for many of our patients by bringing together specialists from various disciplines to collaborate on the best treatment approaches for patients. These Hubs will provide a ‘one-stop’ resource for individuals with complex conditions.”
Another feature of this outpatient service new to large health systems is the utilization of a case manager for Medicaid-eligible patients. “These case managers will focus on building trusting relationships with patients who struggle with systemic inequities and barriers that interfere with their capability to engage in care,” explains Patrick Runnels, MD, UH’s Chief Medical Officer of Population Health and Behavioral Health. “For example, the case managers may sit with them in the appointment to help them better understand and act on treatment recommendations. Outside the Hub appointment, the case manager may help the patient design a healthier diet plan, and shop and cook with the patient if that’s what’s needed. It’s a very individualized, tailored approach.”
UH Behavioral Health Hubs offer:
- Individual and group mental health counseling
- Substance use disorder treatment
- Nursing services
- Case management services
- Outpatient psychiatric and substance use disorder medication management
- Pharmacy services
- Locations chosen for accessibility: walkable or on a bus line
Supplementing onsite care is the virtual care program. “Patients will be able to access additional providers virtually by phone, computer, and other hand-held devices with audio and video, expanding access even more,” says Lori Locke, RN, Director, Psychiatry Nursing Practice and co-director of the UH Behavioral Health Institute. “Ohioans have witnessed firsthand the devastation caused by increased overdose deaths as well as mental health concerns. The pandemic has further compounded the issue and also caused overall increases in stress and anxiety for many in our community. This is a proud day for UH as we bring a greatly needed resource to our region.”
“Before, a patient living with schizophrenia and diabetes might have to arrange a trip to downtown Cleveland and visit several different locations for counseling, case management, help administering medication, and a prescription refill. You can imagine how stressful that might be and how long it might take,” said Runnels. “With the Hub, they can accomplish all of that at one place close to home.”
UH strives to address the needs of the community. Mental health is an area we know is under-resourced. This exciting new and innovative facility will bring more services closer to home and make it more likely that those suffering with mental health and substance use disorders will stay on track to live healthier more fulfilling lives.
The UH Behavioral Health Hub is located at 902 Westpoint Pkwy, Suite 320, Westlake.