Special Projects Fund

Project Title

Integrating Mental Health Services into a Primary Care Setting

Grant Amount


Priority Area

Special Projects Fund

Date Awarded

November 24, 2008


Western NY






In the Black Rock region of Buffalo, access to mental health care is limited. In 2008, the average patient wait time was six weeks to see a counselor and more than three months to see a psychiatrist. The Neighborhood Health Center (NHC), a federally qualified health center in the Black Rock region, serves more than 10,000 patients annually. Established more than 20 years ago, it provides care and services in pediatrics; internal medicine; obstetrics and gynecology; dentistry; and nutrition education to the uninsured and underinsured. To address the unmet mental health needs of residents in this underserved area, the New York Health Foundation (NYHealth) awarded a grant to NHC to increase patient access to on-site mental health services.

The Center is a Federally Qualified Health Center established more than 20 years ago, providing primary care pediatric, internal medicine, and Obstetrics and Gynecology services, specialist referrals, dental care, pharmacy services, and nutrition education. This project developed a new psychosocial services department within the Center, utilizing two new licensed clinical social workers (LCSW-R) and a community health worker to provide on-site mental health counseling and increase referrals to community counselors and psychiatric care.

Improved diagnosis and earlier treatment of behavior and mood disorders for people currently unable to access mental health care will have a direct, positive impact on patients’ ability to function. Patients have on-site access to individual and group visits, evaluation, testing, diagnosis, and development of treatment plans and the Center’s primary care physicians and nurse practitioners will be able to collaborate with experienced mental health counselors. The social workers also help clients access non-clinical community resources, initiate mental health referrals, and develop follow-up plans. In the first year, the project is expected to have direct impact on 10% to 15% of the clinic’s current patients—about 1,200 people—with indirect benefits for many family members and others.