State Seeks to Fix Issues that Have Hindered Integrated Healthcare

Source: Health

New Jersey has been wrestling in recent years with how to foster more integrated care, given the potential benefits to patients and public finances.

For example, to improve coordination, the former governor shifted the state’s Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services — with a $1.16 billion budget and 4,300 employees — from the Department of Human Services (DHS) to the state’s Department of Health. However, on advice from policy experts, current Governor Phil Murphy moved it back to DHS just eight months later.

The Department of Health has announced several changes designed to make it easier for licensed healthcare facilities to offer treatments for both mental health and substance use disorder. Another proposal is for changes would make it easier for patients to get addiction treatment from their primary-care providers.

The Garden State is also examining the role providers play and how they can learn to work together more effectively to better serve patients. A single licensing process would cover multiple aspects of care, something experts said is critical in creating a unified system.

Led by Rutgers Health University Behavioral Health Care (UBHC), the initiative seeks to create a new education model and curriculum to guide the next generation of providers in how to care for the patient as a whole. The project — which involves eight schools for health professionals — is likely the only one of its kind of this scale in the nation.

Early this year, Hackensack Meridian Health — a network of 16 hospitals, hundreds of outpatient offices and a medical school — joined forces with the Carrier Clinic, a well-known addiction provider established 100 years ago, in hopes of building a better integrated system of care. The first partnership of its kind in New Jersey, the merger echoes alliances formed in several large cities across the country.

To build a future workforce that is comfortable collaborating, the Nicholson Foundation has provided $1.5 million to enable UBHC to research curriculum models, gather input from stakeholders, and craft a new education plan. The work will involve the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, as well as their schools of nursing, psychology, pharmacy, dental medicine, social work and allied health professions — a wide and diverse buy-in which UBHC president and CEO Dr. Frank A. Ghinassi describes as a “major shift” in the way care is delivered in New Jersey and beyond.

“Ultimately, we want to make integrated care ‘the new normal’ throughout the state of New Jersey,” says Dr. Arturo Brito, a pediatrician who is now the executive director of the Nicholson Foundation. “We want the next generation of health providers to start their careers knowing how to function effectively in inter-professional teams that provide high-quality, patient-centered, fully-integrated behavioral and physical healthcare.”

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