By JULIE MINDA
Two New Jersey Catholic health care providers have partnered to create an integrated network of behavioral health services.
St. Joseph's Healthcare System of Paterson, N.J., and Trinitas Regional Medical Center of Elizabeth, N.J., announced in December that they had formed an integrated behavioral health network that gives patients access to the organizations' full continuum of services. This includes inpatient and outpatient mental health services for children, adolescents, adults and elders.
The network will enable the two organizations to improve access to care, add services, reduce clinical variation and better coordinate care for patients. That is according to James McCreath, Trinitas vice president of behavioral health, and Dr. Carlos Rueda, regional chairman of psychiatry and behavioral health for the new network.
Under the partnership, St. Joseph's and Trinitas equally share the costs of group management of the network. The two facilities are not consolidating any assets.
Dr. Maria Padron, medical director for the child and adolescent outpatient unit at Trinitas Regional Medical Center, conducts a behavioral health consultation with a patient.
The St. Joseph's system includes two medical centers, a children's hospital and a long-term care and rehabilitation hospital; and Trinitas includes two acute care campuses and a long-term care facility. Rueda said all facilities of both providers will take part in the integrated behavioral health network. McCreath noted St. Joseph's and Trinitas are the largest behavioral health care providers in all of the counties they serve.
Under the new network structure, the organizations will share staff, refer patients to one another, share knowledge and best practices and replicate successful programs. This will allow for a regional approach to care, with a wide variety of sites across a broad geographical area connected with one another.
McCreath said a priority will be to ensure patients are treated in the most appropriate setting for their mental health needs. A particular focus will be on guiding emergency department patients with mental health needs to the best site for care.
The partners also will be embedding mental health services in primary care facilities, said Rueda. He said the goal will be to get people the services they need in the community before mental health conditions escalate.
The network structure will help the providers to more effectively coordinate patients' care so that their medical, psychiatric, psychological, practical and other needs are addressed, according to a press release about the network. Similarly, the structure will help the providers' facilities to serve as medical homes to patients with mental health needs and to use population health approaches to improve the health of groups of patients with mental health needs.
Rueda noted the partners plan to use telepsychiatry to extend the reach of their clinicians.
McCreath said the partnership is still taking shape, but it already is clear the network structure can help to solve a critical concern in behavioral health services. "This brings critical mass to the staffing challenge" that is prevalent in behavioral health care, he said.
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