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NYS awards $795,000 to Niagara Falls Memorial for groundbreaking outpatient mental health program

by jmaloni

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Thu, Dec 5th 2013 06:05 pm

Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center has been awarded $795,000 in state funding for its new Wellness Connection Place, a groundbreaking coordinated care program for adult mental health patients.

The three-year award, announced Tuesday by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, is one of just 37 statewide and the only one designated for a Western New York hospital in the second phase of the competitive Vital Access/Safety Net Provider Program.

Memorial is in the process of renovating its outpatient adult mental health center to establish a one-stop, multi-service center called the Wellness Connection Center. The one-stop center will provide primary care, outpatient behavioral health treatment, health promotion programming, addiction screening, health insurance and financial assistance counseling and community-based service linkages.

A key component of the center will be Wellness Connection Place, which will combine primary care medical services with an adjoining patient resource center as part of a comprehensive approach to serving mental health clients, many of whom suffer from one or more chronic diseases.

Primary care and health education services at Wellness Connection Place will be fully integrated with the mental health center and with all other services provided on site.

"Memorial's innovative care model for integrating primary care and behavioral health services has attracted national and statewide interest as evidenced by the sizable grant funding we have been able to attract on a competitive basis," said Memorial President and CEO Joseph A. Ruffolo.

In addition to the $795,000 award announced this week, Memorial received $1.98 million in state funding to support the renovation and expansion of its Adult Outpatient Mental Health Center, including construction of the Wellness Connection Place. Construction is scheduled for completion in January 2014.

Last month, the medical center received an additional $500,000 award from the state Office of Mental Health to operate Get Well/Stay Well, an innovative project to be jointly offered with The Dale Association to provide one-stop primary care, behavioral health and senior services at the Summit Family Health Center in Wheatfield.

The VAP program was established by the state's Medicaid Redesign Team and awards funds to support projects that improve community care and achieve defined financial, operational and quality improvement goals related to integration or reconfiguration of health care services.

"Keeping the mental health population physically healthy and connected to the benefits and services they need to live independently in the community will reduce their reliance on costly emergency room visits and hospitalizations," said Memorial Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Sheila K. Kee. "The Wellness Connection Place will be a win-win for the state, regional health insurers, the Niagara community as a whole, and the patients served by this initiative."

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