Disrupting Behavioral Health: Achieving Greater Access and Equity

Disrupting Behavioral Health: Achieving Greater Access and Equity. Reimagine. Two people wearing masks putting Post-It Notes on a whiteboard.COVID-19 has illuminated the challenges hospitals and health systems face in meeting the behavioral health needs of communities across the nation. Some provider organizations are developing powerful networks by forging broad-based community partnerships, integrating physical and behavioral health care and more to address barriers to access.

During a recent AHA Transformation Talks video, leaders from WakeMed Health and Hospitals in Raleigh, N.C., shared strategies to overcome these disparities and increase patient access to appropriate caregivers at the right time and place.

WakeMed Health and Hospitals CEO Donald Gintzig and Chief Strategy Officer Rick Shrum, along with the AHA’s Rebecca Chickey, senior director of behavioral health services, explore success factors for sustainable regional behavioral health networks, including:

Be a Convener

Solving access challenges requires a team approach. Hospitals and health systems can lead by bringing together community, faith-based, nonprofit and governmental organizations to create a network of resources to collaborate on increasing access. A greater community effort is required because behavioral health patients have complex needs across a broad spectrum of services — many of which hospitals and health systems aren’t able to provide. WakeMed conducted an extensive outreach to connect with these groups to assess needs and learn how each group works within their communities. This helped streamline referrals and identify ways each group could improve the allocation of its assets. As WakeMed optimized the behavioral health network, it was able to reduce by 64% the days in waiting — the time between when patients are medically cleared and when they are connected to behavioral health services.

Extensively Evaluate Patients

WakeMed’s network brought social workers and behavioral health psychologists to the front door of its emergency department to get a deeper understanding of patients’ whole health needs — their physical and mental disorders and their often-complex social-risk factors. Patients participate in an extensive evaluation before they are matched with the right professional.

Get Broad Engagement

Achieving CEO buy-in is essential to developing and advancing behavioral health networks. It’s also helpful to have a behavioral health service-line leader who can champion the day-to-day work. And as you engage community partners, it’s important that a broad group of leaders agree on the critical needs and see themselves as owners in this journey.

The AHA Transformation Talks website provides additional resources on ways to reimagine health care. The video series, produced with support from iProtean, connects AHA members with senior health care executives, clinicians and the most influential voices in the field as they discuss how to navigate business-critical challenges and potential new solutions.

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