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Gina Pferdehirt
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Behavioral Health Home Plus Wins 2016 Recognition of Excellence in Wellness from Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) Program to Achieve Wellness

Program Model Developed by Community Care Behavioral Health

PITTSBURGH, STATE COLLEGE (September 22, 2016) – The Behavioral Health Alliance of Rural Pennsylvania (BHARP) and Community Care Behavioral Health Organization (Community Care) are pleased to announce that the Behavioral Health Home Plus model has been acknowledged by SAMHSA’s Program to Achieve Wellness for exemplary wellness efforts. The model received the 2016 Recognition of Excellence in Wellness (The Recognition). The selection panel found the Behavioral Health Home Plus model to be exemplary in innovation, replicability, and impact, creating meaningful improvements in the lives of people in recovery from mental and/or substance use disorders.

"BHARP is honored to receive this recognition. BHARP supported this model for use in rural counties where access to primary health care is often a challenge for individuals living with serious and persistent mental illness," said Sally Walker, Director, Administrative Unit at BHARP. We are pleased to be a partner with Community Care in pursuing innovative solutions for those we serve."

Behavioral Health Home Plus was developed by Community Care; one of the country’s largest not-for-profit behavioral health managed care organizations, in partnership with BHARP; a nonprofit stakeholder convener representing the North Central region of Pennsylvania, and individuals in recovery. From the inception of the model in 2010, this stakeholder group was focused on enhancing the lives and lifespan of individuals with serious mental illness (which includes a variety of behavioral challenges, such as persistent depression and bipolar disorders). Individuals with serious mental illness often die in middle age from the consequences of physical health problems that result from smoking and obesity, such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes. The Behavioral Health Home Plus engages individuals in addressing these problems and gives them strategies to use to resolve or manage them. In addition to these challenges, for the majority of people living with serious mental illness, the connection to community mental health centers is often their only point of contact with the health care system.

Behavioral health providers have long recognized the often undertreated and unmet physical health needs of individuals with serious mental illness, but lacked the capacity and a structured model to support them in actively addressing their whole health and wellness. Behavioral Health Home Plus provides that structure and promotes and addresses physical health and wellness for individuals in recovery who are living with serious mental illness by helping their behavioral health providers identify and address their physical health challenges and enable them to become better informed and more effective managers of their own overall health. In this innovative model, Service Coordinators/Case Managers and Certified Peer Specialists incorporate wellness coaching, adapted from Peggy Swarbrick, PhD, into their role, and a Wellness Nurse joins the behavioral health care provider team to act as a lead health navigator and consultant.

In partnership with their mental health provider, people engage in wellness coaching to set and achieve physical health goals that are meaningful to them and can have a life-changing impact on their health and recovery. To date, over 7,500 people in service at 49 community mental health centers that have transformed to Behavioral Health Home Plus providers have set and achieved goals related to weight management, smoking cessation, increasing exercise, improving sleep, and other critical areas of health promoting lifestyle change.

"Health and wellness are invaluable parts of recovery. The tools in this model, implemented by BHARP, have been embraced by both patients and providers who report that the program has helped patients reach wellness goals and providers to incorporate wellness into their agencies' treatment processes and culture," said Dr. James Schuster, Chief Medical Officer of Behavioral and Medicaid Services, VP of Behavioral Integration, UPMC Insurance Services Division.

In 2013, the UPMC Center for High-Value Health Care, a nonprofit research platform housed within the UPMC Insurance Services Division, in partnership with Community Care, BHARP, and many other important stakeholders, received a three-year award from the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) titled Optimizing Behavioral Health Homes by Focusing on Outcomes that Matter Most for Adults with Serious Mental Illness. This study examines the impact of the model and its components on a range of patient-centered outcomes and involves 11 community mental health centers that were early adopters of the model. A comparative effectiveness design is being used to compare two key components of the Behavioral Health Home Plus model: the addition of a wellness nurse to the health home team and the incorporation of a suite of self-management tools and strategies to support individuals to determine what works best for whom and under what circumstances. While study results will not be fully available until the spring of 2017, initial qualitative results from interviews with individuals in recovery highlight the positive impact of the health home model in assisting them in achieving wellness goals.

People who have engaged in the Behavioral Health Home Plus model have reduced their medications for diabetes following significant weight loss, report increased energy and health, many have successfully quit smoking, and others have reported that improving their physical health has reduced the severity of their mental health condition. Behavioral Health Home Plus providers have developed close collaborative relationships with primary care providers and supported individuals in fully accessing routine and preventive care, which has resulted in individuals receiving treatment for previously undiagnosed physical health problems such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer that left undertreated would have had devastating consequences.

Community Care designed an online survey to facilitate discussion between health home staff and individuals in service while collecting important self-reported wellness outcomes including health status and satisfaction with care — The Wellness Outcomes Online Tool (WOOT!). Data from WOOT! Surveys completed by 700 individuals indicate improvement in several metrics including satisfaction with progress in wellness goals and improved activation in care as indicated by involvement in wellness planning. Over time, fewer individuals reported "poor" ratings of physical and behavioral health accompanied by an increase in the percent of individuals reporting "excellent" ratings. The rate of connection with primary care within the previous 12 months was high and the rate of reciprocal communication and collaboration between behavioral health and physical health providers increased significantly over time. These significant findings show the value that individuals in service find in the Behavioral Health Home Plus program.

Dr. Schuster emphasizes, "Behavioral health providers have a clinical and ethical obligation to help individuals with serious mental illness address the lifestyle and health issues that can impede their recovery and shorten their lives. We believe that the behavioral health home model has successfully engaged members and providers in this effort and look forward to its continued growth and enhancements."


About The Behavioral Health Alliance of Rural Pennsylvania (BHARP)

BHARP was established in the fall of 2006, and is comprised of County mental health/intellectual disabilities Administrators, Human Service Directors, and Drug and Alcohol Single County Authorities from 23 counties in north central Pennsylvania. BHARP was formed upon request by the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (OMHSAS). The primary purpose of BHARP is to allow the 23 counties in the north central region to participate in the implementation and monitoring of DHS’s contract with the managed care organization (MCO) for the provision of Health Choices in Pennsylvania’s north central zone. In partnership with OMHSAS and in collaboration with other stakeholders, BHARP works with OMHSAS and Community Care to ensure that a comprehensive, responsive, unified, cost-effective, recovery oriented behavioral health system of care is available within the 23-county region.

About Community Care Behavioral Health

Community Care Behavioral Health Organization, a nonprofit, tax-exempt recovery-focused behavioral health managed care organization headquartered in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, manages mental health and substance use disorder services for Medical Assistance recipients in Pennsylvania. Part of UPMC, Community Care was incorporated in 1996 with a mission to improve the health and well-being of the community through the promotion of effective and accessible behavioral health services.