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Memorial applies for $1.98M in funding for innovative behavioral health programming

by jmaloni
Wed, Mar 7th 2012 08:40 pm

Program would generate millions in Medicaid savings

Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center has applied for $1.98 million in HEAL NY funding to launch an innovative restructuring of its mental health services to better serve its patients while producing several million dollars in cost savings for federal and state governments and health insurance providers.

The new care model, called the Niagara Connection Project, realigns Memorial's inpatient, outpatient and emergency mental health services to make it easier to connect patients to all the services offered by Memorial's health care network and improve access to an array of community-based services.

As the third-largest provider of behavioral health care in the eight counties of Western New York, Memorial faces financial challenges posed by frequent inpatient re-admissions in addition to new demands by health insurers to improve the quality of care provided to patients who receive mental health services, Memorial Vice President and COO Sheila K. Kee said.

"The Niagara Connection Project will substantially reduce the length of Medicaid-paid hospital stays while expanding outpatient care to meet the growing need," Kee said. "Specially trained care coordinators will meet with behavioral health patients in the emergency room to initiate a comprehensive care management model that will meaningfully engage those patients both during their hospital stay and after they are discharged."

Care coordinators will also work with patients to avoid unnecessary hospital re-admissions and repeat emergency room visits by connecting them with community-based service providers. As a result, patients will have easier access to the full range of services they need to improve their quality of life.

Other elements of the Niagara Connection Project include:

•Establishment of a short-term intensive psychiatric treatment program.

•Expansion of Memorial's outpatient behavioral health service to meet a projected 30 percent increase in clinic volume.

•Renovation of the outpatient mental health clinic's aging physical plant to make it an attractive place for treatment and recovery. The renovation will include an open and welcoming reception area and the addition of two individual therapy rooms and a group counseling facility.

•Establishment of a one-stop connection center at the medical center. The connection center will consist of four service kiosks staffed by community agencies and allow clients to receive the support services they need to connect with and stay connected to treatment.

Those services will include public housing, food and clothing, health insurance assistance, Medicaid transportation, financial counseling and primary care services.

The Niagara Connection Project will benefit not only patients and clients, but the community and the health care system, Memorial President and CEO Joseph A. Ruffolo said.

"In addition to enhancing the services our behavioral health clients receive, we conservatively estimate this project will generate a cost savings of $2.9 million over a three-year period, including $2.4 million in Medicaid savings," Ruffolo said. "This is better care delivered more effectively and more efficiently."

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