Behavioral Health/Primary Care Integration Project
Expanding Health Care Coverage
December 10, 2012
Successful implementation of Federal health reform will require expanded primary care access for the estimated 1.2 million New Yorkers who will gain health insurance coverage and for the 1.4 million who will likely remain uninsured.
Community health centers—ranging from a storefront free clinic to sophisticated operations running facilities across a multi-county region—are on the front lines of primary care. But many community health centers struggle with low margins, limited funding, and growing demand. When health reform is fully implemented, community health centers are expected to double capacity to serve 3 million New Yorkers.
In September 2012, NYHealth issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) and awarded six grants to help community health centers take the practical steps needed to build capacity to better meet the growing need for primary care services. The RFP focused on supporting projects in five medically underserved regions—Southern Tier, North Country-Adirondacks, Capital District, Central Leatherstocking-Catskills, and Hudson Valley. This RFP followed up an earlier initiative to support community health centers and expand primary care services in four other underserved regions.
As the only federally qualified health center in Albany County, Whitney M. Young, Jr. Health Services (WMY) is an integral part of the health care safety net, providing comprehensive primary care, dentistry, and behavioral health services to approximately 22,000 patients annually through nearly 59,000 visits.
With this NYHealth grant, WMY pursued two expansions of its primary care capacity. Adult primary care services at WMY’s Albany Health Center reached full capacity, in part because of frequent use by chronically ill patients. As a result, new patients were facing a six-week wait for an appointment. NYHealth funding enabled WMY to use social workers, group therapy, and self-management care plans both to improve clinical outcomes and to reduce the inappropriate use of primary care providers for managing chronic health conditions. This allowed physicians to see more patients, while reducing chronically ill patients’ cycling through visits without improving their health. WMY also brought primary care services onsite at two of its addiction programs. Patients in the addiction programs are rarely engaged in primary care to manage overall health. This NYHealth grant in part provided funding to hire and support a new primary care provider for the approximately 1,000 addiction patients seen annually.