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November 12, 2015

Harrington Launches Multi-Level Program to Expand Access to Behavioral Health Services

SOUTHBRIDGE, Mass. – November 12, 2015 –Harrington HealthCare System has recently launched a “transformative program” to expand access to high quality behavioral health services across South Central Massachusetts. Supported by a $3.5 million grant awarded by the Massachusetts Health Policy Commission (HPC) in 2014, Harrington has begun implementation of its Medical Home Model, targeted at increasing access to behavioral health services across all of Southern Worcester County.

Licensed behavioral health clinicians and patient navigators are now working within Harrington’s inpatient unit in Southbridge, its Emergency Care Center in Southbridge, and Harrington Physician Services Family Practice office at 10 North Main Street in Charlton, to integrate into existing clinical settings to provide comprehensive care for patients with complex healthcare needs.

The clinicians work directly with the doctors and other care staff to identify and assess at-risk patients with mental health and/or substance abuse disorders for enhanced, CHART- funded health services. The navigators work with the individual patients and their families to remove barriers that prevent or restrict their ability to receive behavioral health services. The navigators can help with transportation, translation, or insurance complications, in addition to other services.

Staff will also monitor hospitalized patients and provide follow-up evaluations and coordination of services after discharge.

“In the last 12 months, 84 percent of patients who had a physician referral for a substance abuse program never showed up,” said Greg Mirhej, Assistant Vice President for Harrington’s Behavioral Health Services. “Our program creates a multidisciplinary team with a strong behavioral health focus, and it allows us to help bridge those gaps and expand much-needed access to services in the area.”

“Community hospitals play a critical role in the Health Policy Commission’s efforts to achieve the Commonwealth’s cost containment and quality improvement goals,” said David Seltz, Executive Director of the Health Policy Commission. “In making these vital investments, CHART hospitals were issued a challenge: propose initiatives that will put you on a path of transformation, while meeting critical health care needs of your community. Harrington met that challenge, and we look forward to continuing our partnership with them and the communities they serve to build a more coordinated and affordable health care system.”

In November, also as part of the investment initiative, Harrington will open the region’s first-ever intensive outpatient program for substance abuse. Located at 176 Main Street in Southbridge, the day program provides comprehensive, structured therapy specifically for substance abuse. Prior to this program opening, Worcester was the only option in the region for patients who required a higher level of care because of significant risk factors  to prevent further relapse and hospitalization.

Mirhej said he hopes one of the outcomes of the program will be to provide services when and where they are needed. He also stated one of the primary program goals is to reduce Harrington’s 30-day Southbridge Emergency Room re-visits by 15 percent over the next two years.

Harrington will also be adding a navigator and clinician to the Harrington Physician Services Webster primary care office by December.

More than two dozen community hospitals in Massachusetts received funding from HPC for Phase 2 of the Community Hospital Acceleration, Revitalization, and Transformation (CHART) Investment Program. The investment program makes phased investments for selected hospitals to enhance their delivery of efficient, effective care.

Harrington’s proposal was centered around the implementation of the medical home model and an integration of behavioral health services throughout the hospital and community.

A portion of the investment was also awarded to help fund a new inpatient psychiatric unit on Harrington’s Webster campus. The 16-bed unit will be the first in central and western Massachusetts to offer a specialty track for patients suffering from both mental illness and substance abuse disorders. It is expected to open late 2016. This investment supports repurposing unused inpatient hospital capacity to meet burgeoning community needs. 

The CHART program is a four-year community hospital public-private partnership aimed at enhancing delivery of efficient, effective care. The HPC’s partnership with community hospitals is a critical part of the agency’s efforts to achieve the Commonwealth’s cost containment and quality improvement goals.

In October 2014, the HPC announced CHART Phase 2 awards to 28 community hospitals with a groundbreaking $60 million in investments to improve community-oriented care for patients with complex social and medical needs, and to increase access to high quality behavioral health services through CHART Phase 2. A complete listing of awards is located here.


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