Mercy Health Increasing Access to Quality Mental Healthcare

While quality mental healthcare services can be hard to find, Mercy Health's Behavioral Health Institute (BHI) and related services are not only providing thousands of patients with expanded access to much needed mental health services but also exceeding national quality benchmarks.

The BHI treats more than 13,000 mostly low-income and under-served patients annually from seven hospital inpatient wards located in Ohio (Clermont, Lima, Lorain, Oregon, Toledo and Youngstown) and Kentucky (Paducah). These patients have severe mental health issues, including bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, severe depression and borderline and antisocial personality disorder.

Patient satisfaction is high and patients are getting better in functional ways that the BHI's team of experts can measure. For example, the length of stay of the average inpatient increased by one to two days. The BHI did this intentionally to provide a more appropriate 'dose' of treatment and this has led to increased stability, reduced readmission risk and better quality-of-life for patients.

The BHI uses the most effective evidence-based group therapy treatment protocols, including the psychotherapy or agenda group therapy model, which has had a transformative effect with the most acute patients. Using brief psychodynamic models such as this are the exception in modern healthcare but the results have been noteworthy.

Since standardizing its care program and adopting a recovery-based model in 2013, the BHI has seen its clinical outcomes consistently exceed national benchmarks for excellence across a variety of measures. These measures include pre- and post-treatment functional assessment and the Outcomes Questionnaire 30, which is among the most validated and researched quality of life tools and in which scores on average across the BHI rose from 13-21, an improvement of more than 61% that exceeds the national standard of excellence score of 20.

The BHI is achieving these results by offering both inpatient and outpatient care in beautifully renovated, safety-conscious spaces, in addition to using a recovery-based model that sees patients serve as active participants in their own recovery. To ensure that all who use its services, including the poor and under-served at the heart of Mercy Health's mission, have access to the best possible care, the BHI’s staff of more than 500 psychiatrists, nurses, social workers, therapists and technicians are credentialed with top-of-scope licenses and board-certified in their areas of expertise whenever possible.

While a great deal of effort has been put into renovating the inpatient environment of care and the treatment program the BHI offers, the BHI also works with patients to catch potential behavioral health issues early and before the patient may need an inpatient stay. For example, the full behavioral health continuum offered by Mercy Health's BHI extends into outpatient services, such as the five-days-per-week Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP) and the three-mornings-per-week Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP).

Both the PHP and IOP services are direct access points for patients from the community seeking intensive behavioral health services and are also frequently utilized as step-down services for patients discharging from the inpatient program.

Mercy Health's commitment to behavioral health extends to its physician practices in Ohio and Kentucky. In what may be the fastest roll out of primary care integration in the country, Mercy Health has added to the number of primary care physician practices also featuring a behavioral health consultant as part of the care team available to patients.

It's the right thing to do. As many as 57% of U.S. adults have experienced a behavioral health issue in their lifetime and 32% have had one in the last 12 months. Common disorders include anxiety, depression and attention deficit disorder. People with behavioral health conditions frequently have physical health conditions and vice versa. The behavioral health conditions can prevent patients from making changes that will help them live longer, healthier lives and the Journal of the American Medical Association has noted that as many as 40% of premature deaths are due to an individual’s behavior.

Twenty-three Mercy Health Physician primary care offices now have 15 behavioral health consultants available to address any behavioral health issue that prevents patients from achieving their self-management goals and improving their health. Behavioral health consultants are doctoral-level psychologists and licensed independent social workers who can treat patients suffering from mental health concerns such as depression and anxiety and also consult on medical treatment for chronic illnesses such as diabetes, COPD, pain and sleep disorders, among others. These in-practice additions expand access to behavioral services to more than 150,000 patients. Mercy Health is planning to expand the number of Behavioral Health Consultants to 21 to serve over 200,000 patients in a total of 35 medical practices by the end of 2016.