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Caring for the whole you

Special Advertorial Health Section - MCHC springs into behavioral health care

Partners HealthCare
Caring for the whole you
Mattapan Community Health Center’s partners gathered for their first integrated behavioral health planning meeting. Key partners of the committee include: Boston Medical Center, Wheelock College, MASBIRT, the MCHC Team, two schools, and a community center. (Photo: Courtesy Partners Healthcare)

Mattapan Community Health Center (MCHC) views spring as a time for new beginnings. It is an opportunity to improve in all aspects of life, including health. Behavioral health illness often goes untreated, because issues like depression, anxiety, or substance abuse are frequently ignored or undiagnosed. MCHC and its partners have recognized the importance of treating these issues in a patient-centered culturally-sensitive way. Dr. Azzie Young, President and CEO of Mattapan Community Health Center notes, “We are very excited to offer integrated mental health services in our community. All clients and patients are in good hands with our amazing primary care and behavioral health providers. The Health Center appreciates our partners and the leadership of our elected officials to make mental health services in Mattapan a reality.”

MCHC has created an innovative approach to behavioral health care by including this care directly with primary care. This effort was led in partnership with Boston Medical Center, Wheelock College, the Massachusetts Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment Training and Technical Program Assistance, and three community partners. Patients can seek treatment of behavioral health illnesses just as they would for medical and dental illnesses.

Behavioral health illness may be viewed as a complex, oftentimes taboo, issue. Therefore, the Health Center educated its staff on the sensitivity of this topic, created new policies to better protect patient health information, and developed procedures to keep patients safe. These actions will ensure patients’ privacy.

A behavioral health team now works directly with primary care providers to improve the health of the Mattapan community and its surrounding areas. A full-time Social Worker and Case Manager work closely with patients and providers to ensure the highest quality care. MCHC also hired a psychiatric nurse practitioner, a psychiatrist, a substance abuse specialist, and a psychologist so that most patients’ health care needs can be addressed and treated onsite. This team-based process allows patients to avoid the long wait-times that often plague referrals to other resources.

MCHC’s Chief Medical Officer and Director of the Behavioral Health Program, Ramon Cancino, MD, MSc, states, “Integrating primary care and behavioral health care is the key to improving quality of care.” He goes on to say, “Patients with diabetes and depression have worse outcomes than patients who have only diabetes. In these patients, health centers must partner with patients and address both diabetes and depression in order to save lives.”

The program also aims to increase outreach and education about behavioral health illnesses for children, adolescents, and their parents. Social workers from Wheelock College will work with the team and the community. “Wheelock College is pleased to work with these outstanding partners who are committed to tackling the community challenge by adopting an innovative model which will reduce fragmentation and attend to the needs of the whole patient,” says Marta T. Rosa, Senior Executive Director of the Department of Government and External Affairs at Wheelock College. “Jointly we are improving recognition, treatment, and management of psychosocial problems and coordination of care across primary care and specialty area teams at the Health Center.”

The integrated behavioral health care program started in December 2014 and has already seen more than 250 visits. Mattapan Community Health Center looks forward to seeing new medical, dental, and behavioral health patients in the Spring. Providers are accepting Existing and New Patients. If needed, the Health Center can also help individuals and families sign up for health insurance.

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