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Behavioral Health Partners Share Updates With County's Coordinating Council

Trisha speaks
Ryan Denham
Trisha Malott, the county’s Behavioral Health Coordinating Council supervisor, speaks at Friday's council meeting in Bloomington.";

Community groups shared Friday how they’re tackling the connections between mental health and primary care, homelessness, and even newborn care during presentations to the McLean County Behavioral Health Coordinating Council.

Chestnut Health Systems, Illinois State University’s Mennonite College of Nursing, The Baby Fold, Project Oz, and PATH all briefed the council on their efforts over the past year in support of the county’s Mental Health Action Plan.

Chestnut touted the spring 2019 opening of its $8 million Family Health Center at 702 W. Chestnut St. in west Bloomington. It’s a recognition from Chestnut—founded in the 1970s as a substance-abuse treatment provider—of the connection between behavioral health and primary care, said Chestnut CEO David Sharar.

David Sharar
Credit Ryan Denham / WGLT
Chestnut Health Systems CEO David Sharar.

“A lot of our patients don’t come in with one acute problem,” Sharar said. “We might have a patient with uncontrolled diabetes, bipolar, hazardous drinking, and has never seen a dentist. This is not atypical of the type of patient who would come to us, which again underscores the importance of integration because what we have are systems of care that refer out to different silos for all of these different services, which really reduces patient adherance to any of these things.”

Integrated care plays out daily at the Chestnut Family Health Center, which has seen between 2,400 and 2,500 patients so far in 2019, Sharar said. Many are from the 61701 ZIP code in the core of Bloomington, where about one-third of Bloomington-Normal’s low-income, Medicaid-enrolled population lives.

If a patient presents signs of anxiousness, depression, or PTSD during a primary care screening, one of the health center’s three behavioral health clinicians will step into the exam room for a screening, brief intervention, and referral for psychiatric services, Sharar said. The clinic also has nurses who focus on referrals to other agencies.

A simple referral like that—giving someone a phone number for an agency—is what’s called Level 1 coordination, Sharar said. And McLean County’s behavioral health network is only operating at a Level 1 or Level 2 coordination in most cases, he said.

McLean County should strive toward Level 3 (when agencies share physical space and workflows) and Level 4 (when agencies can access the same electronic medical records and offer primary care and behavioral care in the same visit) coordination, he said.

“This council, and our vision, is really, how do we get to Level 3? It’s complex because we have so many different providers and agencies. But what steps do we need to take to move closer to Level 3, if we’re going to achieve some of the goals of the county Mental Health Action Plan," Sharar said.

Other agencies also shared their work on behavioral health at Friday’s meeting. 

Project Oz, a Bloomington-based nonprofit, provides emergency shelter in licensed foster care homes to those under age 18 through its Host Home program. Of those placed in Host Homes, about 42% also had mental health issues, in addition to their housing challenges, said Project Oz Executive Director Lisa Thompson.

The goal is to divert those young people from the juvenile justice system and the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS). So far, the program has a 90% diversion (or success) rate, Thompson said. 

“Not that (the juvenile justice system or DCFS) are not adequate systems. But we know they’re expensive and don’t always have great outcomes. Anytime we can divert a young person from entering those systems, there’s a return on our investment for that young person and that community,” Thompson said.

In other discussion at Friday’s meeting: 

  • ISU’s Mennonite College of Nursing is planning to enroll the first students in a new post-master’s psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner (NP) certificate program in summer 2021. It’s a one-year program. The first cohort will have around six students, but the program could grow to 12. The program is still pending review at ISU, said Jessica Sullivan from ISU’s Mennonite College of Nursing.
  • McLean County on Friday will finish phase two of a test-run for a new law enforcement screening tool developed at New York University. The tool, with 14 questions and 10 observations, is aimed at diverting those with behavioral health issues away from the justice system. Trisha Malott, the county’s Behavioral Health Coordinating Council supervisor, praised those who supported the pilot, especially the McLean County jail. 

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Ryan Denham is the digital content director for WGLT.