Hospitals across the country are addressing their communities’ behavioral health needs, often by working with local organizations to coordinate care beyond the walls of a hospital. Examples of these innovative partnerships can be found in AHA’s Community Connections case studies, among AHA award winners and through AHA’s Hospitals In Pursuit of Excellence

In Montana, for example, the Billings Clinic, Riverstone Health, St. Vincent Healthcare and South Central Mental Health Center came together to form the Community Crisis Center (CCC) to offer access to behavioral health care. The CCC is the first licensed outpatient crisis management program in the state and is staffed 24/7 by registered nurses, licensed mental health therapists, and mental health technicians. The clinic provides a more appropriate system of care for individuals with mental health and substance abuse disorders. Each client is stabilized and assessed in order to develop a crisis management plan. The CCC has helped reduce visits to local emergency departments, decreased the number of short-term inpatient hospital admissions, and has even been a driving force in diverting individuals with misdemeanor offenses to a system of behavioral health care instead of incarceration. More information on this and other programs at hospitals in every state and Washington, D.C., can be found through a key word search for behavioral or mental health at ahacommunityconnections.org.


This year’s winner of the Foster McGaw Prize for Excellence in Community Service is Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH). Their broad-based community partnerships are exemplified by MGH’s comprehensive initiative to address the state’s opioid epidemic. A 2013 community health needs assessment conducted by MGH and the communities of Chelsea, Revere and Charlestown identified substance use, and particularly opioids, as their most pressing health concern. As a result, MGH developed a comprehensive new clinical initiative designed to transform care for patients with substance use disorders. This initiative, building on long-standing community-based prevention work, became the leading clinical priority of the entire hospital’s strategic plan – an excellent example of community needs directly influencing the hospital’s clinical agenda. Foster McGaw Prize winners and finalists have a long tradition of developing partnerships that improve physical and behavioral health, making a positive difference in people’s lives.


The AHA’s Hospitals in Pursuit of Excellence program issued a new guide this year, “Triple Aim Strategies to Improve Behavioral Health Care.” It describes strategies, action steps and examples of how hospitals and health systems, working with community partners, can improve the quality of and access to well-coordinated behavioral health care. One case study is the Behavioral Health Network of Greater St. Louis, which coordinates prevention, treatment and recovery support services for children and adults – particularly uninsured, underinsured and underserved individuals – residing in the city of St. Louis and six surrounding counties. Hospitals can use “lessons learned” from the guide to develop their own integrated behavioral and physical health services.


These are just a few of the examples and resources the AHA has to help hospitals and health systems on their own journey to improving behavioral health.  Be sure to check out the Behavioral Health webpage for more information on the AHA’s long-standing commitment to supporting hospitals and health systems’ efforts to deliver high-quality, accessible behavioral health services.  

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