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State awards Memorial $1.98M grant for innovative behavioral health program

by jmaloni
Sat, Jun 16th 2012 02:45 am

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and New York State Health Commissioner Nirav R. Shah, M.D., M.P.H., have announced the awarding of $1.98 million in HEAL NY funding to Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center to implement an innovative restructuring of its mental health services.

Memorial's behavioral health services redesign will result in a savings of nearly $1 million annually in health care costs for state, federal and private insurers.

The new and innovative care model, labeled the Niagara Connection Project, will align inpatient and outpatient mental health services for more convenient access to Memorial's entire health care network and to a wide range outpatient services offered by Memorial's community-based partners.

"This is wonderful news for our community and especially for patients who experience behavioral disorders," Memorial President and CEO Joseph A. Ruffolo said. "Too many people who depend on continuous health care and social support fall through the cracks. The Niagara Connection center will facilitate care coordination for each and every client, connecting them with wellness recovery programs to meet their ongoing social needs, preventative health care needs, and manage their chronic disease.

"We very much appreciate the New York State Department of Health's endorsement of our new care model and we are grateful to the many community partners, other care providers and elected officials whose encouragement and support were instrumental in helping us obtain this grant."

Among those who have consistently supported Memorial's efforts to improve both inpatient and outpatient mental health services in the community is state Sen. George D. Maziarz, Ruffolo said.

"I'm extremely pleased that Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center was selected to receive this funding," Maziarz said. "This new model for care will help provide patients with more services and access to help in the community. This innovative behavior health program will help inpatient and outpatient individuals all while saving money in the long run. I applaud Governor Cuomo and Commissioner Shah for awarding this funding to such a deserving program and I know its benefits will be shown throughout the community."

Elements of the Niagara Connection Project include:

•Establishment of a short-term intensive psychiatric treatment program, which will deploy trained case managers on Memorial's inpatient behavioral health units to reduce the length of stay of patients and generate cost savings for the state's Medicaid program

•Expanding the square footage of the medical center's adult mental health center to have sufficient clinical space to meet projected increases in the adult mental health center's patient volume. More patients will be served as outpatients as Memorial redesigns its behavioral health care delivery system to avoid emergency department visits and hospitalizations.

•Renovation of Memorial's aging outpatient mental health facilities to create a more soothing environment 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.

•The assignment of care coordinators to facilitate the referral of patients to community-based service providers, thereby streamlining access to the full range of services they need to improve their quality of life. Those services will include public housing, food and clothing, health insurance assistance, Medicaid transportation, financial counseling and primary care services.

Memorial Vice President and COO Sheila K. Kee said the Niagara Connection will help the medical center meet three important objectives: reduce unnecessary inpatient readmissions, reduce frequent emergency room visits and improve quality of care.

"This holistic care model, starting with intensive inpatient treatment and continuing with enhanced outpatient follow up and improved access to community-based support will meaningfully engage our patients and provide effective care more efficiently," Kee said.

Over a three-year period, Memorial conservatively estimates the project will generate a cost savings of $2.9 million - including $2.4 million in Medicaid savings, Ruffolo said.

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