Two Durango-based pediatric health care providers, Pediatric Partners of the Southwest and 4 Corners Children's Clinic, have been awarded grants from the state’s Department of Health Care Policy and Financing to bolster their integrated behavioral health care services.
Pediatric Partners will receive $366,000 over the three-year grant period, and the 4 Corners clinic, a smaller practice, will receive $115,000. The money comes from $29 million of the state’s American Rescue Plan Act funds directed to the cause by the legislature.
Behavioral health care can mean a broad range of services, practitioners say. It can consist of anything from a visit with a child psychiatrist or play therapy, to counseling for a new parent with a positive screen for postpartum depression. The concept is centered around having behavior health care on-hand when needed without having to immediately make an outside referral.
“Having a behavioral health person in the office (means we can) do quick check-ins, can address immediate needs, more short term needs and provide that access to mental health care that people otherwise wouldn't go out and seek,” said Jessica Rensner, who runs 4CCC.
According to the grant fact sheet, the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality defines integrated care, in part, as “the care a patient experiences as a result of a team of primary care and behavioral health clinicians, working together with patients and families, using a systematic and cost-effective approach to provide patient-centered care for a defined population.”
Rensner will use the funding to hire a part-time behavioral health provider and a child and adolescent psychiatrist to consult.
“‘The behavioral health mental health needs have gone up over the last 15 years and then escalated after COVID,” said Dr. Cecile Fraley, the CEO of PPSW.
Her practice, which started its behavioral health program 14 years ago, will use the grant to offset the cost of adding a fourth behavioral health provider and provide a $4,000 annual subsidy per staffer for additional training. Fraley said that the funding for training is “significantly beyond what we could offer.”
Fraley has been involved in changing the landscape of medical care on both a regional and statewide scale for many years. She said the grant will facilitate the growth of a better equipped workforce.
“Whether folks stay with us for years as our behavioral health team or go on out into the community and do other counseling or other things in the community, they'll have these additional pediatric trainings,” she said.
Although rarely covered by insurance, Fraley says the integration of primary care with other types of services improves treatment all around.
“Behavioral health changes your life as a provider,” she said.