Mission Health is the recipient of a pivotal $1.25 million grant from The Duke Endowment, a private foundation whose areas of focus include health and wellness. The Endowment grant will allow Mission Health to integrate behavioral health care together with primary care throughout western North Carolina, Mission’s 18 county service area. The need for mental health services in the region has increased dramatically over the past two decades and it affects virtually every area of healthcare.
Western North Carolina is in urgent need of additional, and fully combined behavioral health services and programs, as evidenced by the fact that the region’s suicide rates are among the highest in the state. Regional jails also report that over half of the imprisoned population is living with unmet mental health needs, and that underlying behavioral health illnesses were major contributing factors that led to their incarceration.
Trauma, whether it happens in early childhood or during adulthood, is another common denominator in the lives of many who need integrated medical and behavioral health care. Without question, the need for these services and the lack of appropriate places to find them negatively affects patients, hospitals, the overall healthcare system and our community. A local news series produced last year identified a leading driver of lengthy Emergency Department wait times: the growing numbers of mental health patients who seek care there. Ronald A. Paulus, MD, President and CEO, Mission Health shared: “The unnecessary burden of mental illness is a tragedy for individuals, families, agencies, health systems and our communities. Mental health care is just one part of primary care; integrating the two together is both best practice and common sense. We are deeply grateful to The Duke Endowment for recognizing this critical need.”
The tools that are necessary for Mission Health to realize this integration of behavioral and primary care services include the provision of mental health assessments and brief therapy, as well as collaborative treatment planning in primary and obstetric care settings across the region. This important grant will fund these initiatives. Additionally, the grant will support the creation of a Mobile Medication Program network. Its purpose will be to offer patients medication support, education and opportunities for skill-building via brief, yet frequent home visits.
Sonya Greck, MSN, RN, Mission Health Senior Vice President of Behavioral Health, Safety Net Services, Community Investment and Facilities, believes that the incorporation of behavioral health programs and services into the primary care milieu is certain to improve care, lessen wait times, and enhance outcomes. “Providing direct access to evidence-based services to people when they need mental health care is the most important step in prevention. This program will make urgently-needed care accessible to patients throughout the region,” she said.
The Duke Endowment grant will provide support to Mission Health so its health network can successfully meet the current and future healthcare needs of western North Carolina’s residents.