Springfield-Greene County Health Department teamed with seven other local health organizations last month to begin a yearlong mental health needs assessment to identify ways to better serve that patient population.
Courtesy of a $252,500 grant from Missouri Foundation for Health, the assessment is one of the first tasks under new Health Department Director Clay Goddard.
“We are really looking at the community as a patient,” he said.
The Health Department is teaming with CoxHealth, Mercy Hospital Springfield, Burrell Behavioral Health and Jordan Valley Community Health Center. Also collaborating to complete the assessment – with guidance from Portland, Maine-based Crescendo Consulting Group – are the Healthy Living Alliance Springfield, city of Springfield and Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce.
Crescendo Principal and Research Director Scott Good said the company has conducted similar assessments since the 1990s in communities nationwide – most recently for Montgomery County in Dayton, Ohio.
“The overall purpose of what we want to do is really work with the community to identify where some of the service gaps are and where some of the other needs are where mental health and substance abuse can be addressed,” he said. “It’s a form of identifying and reconfiguring and realigning resources the community already has.”
The Health Department has signed a contract with Crescendo that does not have a specified sunset date, Good said. Although Health Department financial representatives could not be reached before press time, Public Health Information Administrator Kathryn Wall said the majority of the grant is going toward the contract. The remainder is for community engagement efforts like town hall meetings. Officials expect the assessment to take 12-18 months.
The plan calls for focus groups, interviews, surveys, and analysis of digital and social media traffic, as well as forming a behavioral health learning collaborative with Springfield providers.
With that information, the health organizations can explore new programs or improved ways to implement current programs to meet the identified needs. Good said Crescendo will help create a metrics-and-measures dashboard to evaluate the newly implemented plans.
“Crescendo does the assessment and then points in the direction to identify strategies,” he said. “The purpose really is to engage the community, not just the providers. And we really want to reach out to individuals and learn their stories.”
Though the assessment should take a year to complete, Good said the Springfield community can expect to hear feedback throughout the process.
“It’s going to be an interactive process,” he said. “It’s not going to be a year before the public hears back some of the insight we’ve learned.”
The idea came out of the 2016 Springfield Community Health Needs Assessment, a state-mandated review available at OzarksHealthCommission.org. The primary needs were identified as lung disease, cardiovascular disease and mental health.
“In recent months, there has been a growing call to action surrounding mental health and substance abuse challenges in Springfield and the region. This assessment will help our community get a clear picture of the needs and opportunities we have in addressing the impact of mental health issues and substance abuse locally,” a Health Department news release reads. “Ultimately, this assessment is designed to lead to a conversation about how Springfield can best leverage its resources to better serve our community needs.”
Mercy Springfield Communities Interim President Jon Swope indicated mental health patients in the emergency room have increased by about six patients per day since 2009 – totaling roughly 20 per day and 600 per month.
“Our region is experiencing the dual crises of people suffering from addiction and mental health issues,” he said in the release. “They need our help, and we need to respond with compassionate care.”
CoxHealth is one year into its Advanced Practice Paramedic program – called CHAPP – that brings primary care services to patients. The aim is to prevent unnecessary ER visits, said CoxHealth Clinical Services Vice President Amanda Hedgpeth.
Part of CHAPP also is identifying patient mental health needs and connecting them with programs at Burrell Behavioral Health, for instance. Hedgpeth said the mental health needs assessment will help to improve the program and others in Springfield.
“What comes out of that will help us, I think, as we work with our patients on what additional resources the community needs to take care of these patients,” she said. “I’m hoping it will give the providers a better prioritization for where our patient needs are so they can better staff up and service those populations. It allows them some prioritization for the people who have a part in it to be able to add programs and break down various barriers to meet our patient needs.”
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