Santa Clara Family Health Plan Partners with Local Care Providers for $6.7M Behavioral Health Integration Program

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Two-year pilot program aims to identify effective methods of incorporating behavioral health into primary care for underserved patients

We look forward to playing a key role in removing the barriers to behavioral health care and determining the best way to make these services a fully integrated component of primary care in Santa Clara County

Santa Clara Family Health Plan announced it will partner with five local health care providers to improve the integration of behavioral health services into primary care through the Behavioral Health Integration Incentive Program (BHIIP). The BHIIP, funded by the California Department of Health Care Services (DHCS), will provide $6.7 million to these Santa Clara County providers over two years.

Demand for behavioral health services is on the rise, especially in response to heightened anxiety levels and feelings of isolation caused by the pandemic. However, many people lack access to the appropriate behavioral health screening and treatment services – or they face other obstacles to getting care, such as homelessness, language barriers or cultural stigmas.

To address this critical need, Santa Clara Family Health Plan is working with AACI, Gardner Health Services, North East Medical Services, Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, and School Health Clinics of Santa Clara County. These providers work primarily in underserved, low-income and multicultural communities where there are frequent barriers to care.

The BHIIP participants’ projects are as diverse as their patient populations, yet all have the common goal of creating a clearer path to incorporating behavioral health services into their primary care practices. Project objectives:

  • AACI: Develop a comprehensive medication management program using telehealth visits for people with co-occurring chronic medical and behavioral diagnoses and create a comprehensive care coordination program for patients with co-occurring diabetes and serious mental illness.
  • Gardner Health Services: Increase the number of primary care patients identified with and provided treatment for mental health and substance use disorders.
  • North East Medical Services: Improve physical and behavioral health outcomes for patients with co-morbid disorders – specifically diabetes and high blood pressure – by redesigning clinic treatment plans to focus on depression screening, alcohol screening, and follow-up services.
  • Santa Clara Valley Medical Center: Address maternal access to mental health and substance use disorder screening and treatment by creating a robust screening and follow-up process.
  • School Health Clinics: Expand current school-based clinic model to three additional school-based clinic sites to provide integrated behavioral health and physical health services.

“The gap in access to mental health care among the most vulnerable in our county is a challenge we have struggled with for many years, and the pandemic has only worsened the situation,” said Stephanie Kleinheinz, Chief Executive Officer of School Health Clinics of Santa Clara County. “This project enables us to embed behavioral health providers from Uplift Family Services right into our clinics, giving our patients immediate access to mental health care coordinated by a team they know and trust. It’s a game changer for our organization and our patients.”

As the participating providers identify and treat people for behavioral health issues, they will gain, measure and share real-world insight into the most effective models of behavioral health integration for the larger communities served. This includes the development of comprehensive programs to coordinate care, manage medication and make behavioral health services more accessible, paving the way toward improved patient outcomes.

“Maternal mental health is often overlooked as an integral part of ensuring a healthy pregnancy and birth experience for both mom and baby,” said Sarah Isquick, MD, Medical Director of the BHIIP program for Santa Clara Valley Medical Center. “That led us to prioritize integrating behavioral health into our care delivery. Through our participation in this project, we are developing a comprehensive multidisciplinary behavioral health team to provide a more holistic approach to prenatal and postpartum care.”

The BHIIP program began in Medi-Cal managed care in January 2021 and will continue through December 2022.

In its administrative role, Santa Clara Family Health Plan will manage the providers’ efforts to share data and ensure progress toward quarterly milestones and overall outcomes. Santa Clara Family Health Plan also will deliver DHCS funding to contracted providers for the duration of the two-year program.

“It’s very exciting to be part of such a significant investment in meeting this critical need among the communities we serve,” said Christine M. Tomcala, Chief Executive Officer of Santa Clara Family Health Plan. “We look forward to playing a key role in removing the barriers to behavioral health care and determining the best way to make these services a fully integrated component of primary care in Santa Clara County.”

About Santa Clara Family Health Plan
SCFHP is a local, community-based health plan dedicated to improving the health and well-being of the residents of Santa Clara County. Working in partnership with providers and community organizations, we serve our neighbors through our Medi-Cal and Cal MediConnect (Medicare-Medicaid Plan) health insurance plans. SCFHP began offering coverage in 1997 and is now proud to provide services to over 274,000 residents of Santa Clara County. Through devotion to outstanding service and care for the community, SCFHP is committed to providing quality, affordable health insurance to the underserved in Santa Clara County’s diverse population. For more information, visit http://www.scfhp.com

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Laura Watkins
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