UPMC Health Plan


Denise Hughes
UPMC Health Plan

UPMC Health Plan announces program to provide mental health support for Medicaid members in local salons and barbershops

Investments reflect governor's budget call to "meet Medicaid members where they are" via community-based behavioral health innovations

Pittsburgh (May 23, 2023) – As part of Mental Health Awareness Month, UPMC Health Plan and UPMC clinicians today announced the launch of the health system's new community-based Health Access Initiative for Recovery (HAIR) at a news conference at the UPMC Health Plan Neighborhood Center.

Governor Josh Shapiro has called for increased budget funding for behavioral health services, and the state Department of Human Services (DHS) has challenged Medicaid Managed Care Organizations (MCOs) to find culturally appropriate, easily accessible and impactful ways to "meet members where they are" with needed mental health supports. Working with community partners, UPMC Health Plan created the HAIR program to train Allegheny County-based Black barbers and stylists on how to talk to their clientele about substance use, anxiety, depression, suicide prevention, and how to properly refer them to resources and help.

"May is 'Mental Health Awareness Month,' which provides us with an opportunity to not only increase understanding of Pennsylvania's ongoing mental health crisis, but also a chance to recognize innovative approaches to ensuring access to mental health supports for all Pennsylvanians," said John Lovelace, President, Government Programs, UPMC Health Plan. "As shown by our HAIR program, UPMC Health Plan remains deeply committed to developing community-based partnerships that can directly touch the Medicaid-eligible population, which includes some of our most vulnerable and underserved communities."

The goals of the HAIR initiative include improving health outcomes in the Black community through increasing culturally meaningful outreach, supporting ongoing engagement and education, and reducing health disparities that can impact prevention, early intervention, and treatment in underserved communities.

"Local barbers and stylists are known and trusted members of the community they serve. Their clients often feel comfortable opening up to them, and the HAIR Initiative enables us to support them as they work as mental health advocates in their own communities," said Dr. Matthew Hurford, president and CEO, Community Care Behavioral Health Organization.

"UPMC Western Behavioral Health recognizes and supports community initiatives that enable individuals to receive one-on-one support in their own neighborhoods. These efforts provide a non-threatening opportunity enabling people to feel the value of having mental health support and possibly further engagement in additional resources," said Deborah Brodine, President of UPMC Western Behavioral Health & UPMC Senior Services.

The first cohort of trainees represents barbers and stylists from local communities throughout Allegheny County including Homestead, Homewood, Monroeville, Pitcairn, Penn Hills, Oakland, Swissvale, West Mifflin, and Uptown. All participants underwent a two-day interactive training with role-playing and practice sessions and were paid a stipend for participation before earning their certificates of completion. UPMC Health Plan provides monthly ongoing consultation and support to HAIR participants and has set up a designated concierge wellness line for referrals.


About UPMC Insurance Services

UPMC Insurance Services serves nearly 4.5 million members and is owned and operated by UPMC, a world-renowned health care provider and insurer in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. UPMC Insurance Services provides commercial products through UPMC Health Plan for both groups and individuals. Its commercial products also include workers' compensation and employee assistance from nationally known Workpartners®. Government products include Medicare Advantage plans (UPMC for Life); special needs plans for those who are eligible for Medicare and Medical Assistance (UPMC for Life Complete Care and UPMC Community HealthChoices); a Medical Assistance plan (UPMC for You); and Children's Health Insurance Program plans (UPMC for Kids). Community Care Behavioral Health Organization—one of the nation's largest nonprofit managed care behavioral health organizations—is also part of the Insurance Services Division. Community Care offers a full range of services to commercial and Medical Assistance members. For more information, visit upmchealthplan.com.