Tags: coordinated care , redesigning care

Christine Tebaldi, RN, at McLean Hospital

More than 60 million Americans live with mental illness each year, yet social stigma and a lack of treatment facilities can make it difficult for them to get the care they need.

“While over the past two decades, the public’s awareness of mental illnesses and the effectiveness of treatment have significantly reduced the stigma, it remains a significant barrier both to the individual deciding to seek treatment and to the siting of treatment facilities and programs,” says Tim O’Leary, deputy director of the Massachusetts Association for Mental Health.

As other providers cut back, we are embarking on a significant expansion of these services, which includes adding 50 new beds – mostly at McLean Hospital – and the creation of a new Center of Excellence in Behavioral Health in Lynn. We're also focused on improving the quality of psychiatric care, and we believe better coordination between behavioral and primary health care is key to achieving that.

Coordinated Care Keeps Patients On Track

Kirsten Bolton, a case manager associate for psychotic disorders, directs the On Track program at McLean Hospital. On Track treats young adults who are experiencing the first onset of psychotic symptoms. By intervening early, the program helps keep patients “on track” and prevent them from experiencing more debilitating symptoms.

Most On Track patients haven’t been to therapy before, and many wouldn’t be willing to pursue treatment if they weren’t in the midst of an acute crisis. Because of these circumstances, the program does everything it can to keep patients engaged, including support groups for patients and their families.

In addition to directing the On Track program, Kirsten is also one of its “hubs.” The “hub” is a designated person who serves as a patient’s single point of contact, coordinating appointments and keeping in touch by whatever means possible, from Skype to text messages to checking in with his or her primary care doctors.

McLean’s “hubs” play a key role in making sure patients return for treatment. Kirsten says:

“We’re the center of treatment. We know if someone’s going to their primary care doctor, if they need to get labs, what therapist they’re seeing, when they come to see their psychiatrist.”

By helping to coordinate care, hubs make it easier for patients to get the treatment they need. “It creates more comprehensive care for each patient,” says Kirsten. “It helps the patient to always have one person to come to, so they don’t have to track down all their different appointments.”

Expanding Care Where It’s Needed Most

There’s never been a more important time to improve the way we deliver mental and behavioral health care. Led by our world-class clinicians at McLean, Massachusetts General, and Brigham and Women’s Hospitals, we are delivering new models of care that integrate mental health services into primary care practices. We absorb annual losses of more than $50 million providing these vital services, but we believe it is critical to improve access to behavioral health care as we pave the way for prevention and cures.

Find out why we believe there is no public health without mental health.