Merging Mental Health and Primary Care to Benefit Patients at Judson Center

Blues Perspectives

| 4 min read

Talking about patients diagnosis.
Physical and behavioral health are linked in many ways, yet care continues to be separated in most cases. A movement to integrate care under one roof is taking root and the results are playing out at Judson Center Family Health in Warren. A little over two years ago the clinic literally broke down walls between primary and behavioral health care. Through a partnership with MedNetOne Health Solutions and with funding from the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Foundation and many other funders, the clinic added a 3,000-square-foot primary care clinic onto an existing 8,000-square-foot facility devoted to behavioral health care. The expanded facility features a shared waiting room and administrative staff. All services are located under one roof, making access to both types of services more convenient for patients. “We recognized the importance of integrated care and the impact that it could have on the children and adults that we serve,” said Susan Salhaney, chief operating officer for Judson Center. Since then, the integrated care clinic has been designated as a Patient-Centered Medical Home (PCMH) by Blue Cross and is a Certified Community Behavioral Health clinic (CCBHC), which means they’re able to provide a wide array of mental health and substance use disorder services to anyone regardless of ability to pay or insurance status. They’re also working to implement the collaborative care model, a systematic approach to the treatment of depression and anxiety in primary care settings, to more effectively manage patients’ whole health.

Integrated care leading to better outcomes

Patients who had been receiving behavioral health care at the clinic now have expanded access to primary health care services. On the flip side, new patients on the primary care side can be referred to mental health services when necessary. “We saw some immediate impact,” said Melissa Peters, director, Behavioral Health Services. In one case, a patient with chronic medical conditions was referred for behavioral health care. It was determined that they were also dealing with depression and had a daily dependence on alcohol, which was making some of their physical health concerns worse. With care coordination between the behavioral health specialist and primary care the patient was able to secure medication for the depression, quit drinking and is participating in therapy. This patient hadn’t been to the doctor in years but now regularly seeks treatment when needed. That’s just one of many patient examples Judson Center staff have observed since embarking on the integrated care model. “When I think about the impact we’ve already been able to achieve, it confirms the integrated care model is the model of the future,” said Lenora Hardy-Foster, president and CEO, Judson Center. “You can’t do behavioral health without physical health. I think we’ve learned that.”

Addressing social determinants of health

In addition to behavioral health and primary care services, Judson Center patients are served by a certified community health worker who can help make referrals to additional supportive services such as housing help, transportation or access to healthy foods. About 70% of Judson’s patients are individuals seeking financial stability and often must make difficult choices about where to spend limited resources. By helping patients secure extra support, they are more likely and able to focus on their health. Ewa Matuszewski, CEO of MedNetOne, said her organization has been focused on locating health care facilities in so-called “health deserts.” She credits the work of Dr. Thomas Simmer, retired chief medical officer at Blue Cross, for encouraging neighborhood-based care, which is part of the reason MedNetOne joined forces with the Judson Center in Warren. Along with Judson, Matuszewski envisions rolling out mobile clinics that could help people right where they live, eliminating barriers to care for those who might not be able to access it in a traditional manner.

Officials eye strategic expansion of model

Judson Center and MedNetOne officials say they’re looking to replicate the integrated care model at other behavioral health centers in Oakland and Wayne counties as part of their long-term strategy. They believe the partnership is something other organizations would also benefit from. “There are lots of additional opportunities to benefit with this marriage,” Hardy-Foster said. “It’s a marriage other organizations should be looking at.”
  • Learn more about Judson Center services here.
  • Learn more about MedNetOne here.
  • Learn more about Blue Cross’ Patient-Centered Medical Home program here.
Photo credit: Getty Images
MI Blues Perspectives is sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, a nonprofit, independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association