Cooper Among South Jersey Hospitals to Launch Collaborative to Improve Access to Behavioral Health Services

04_2015_behavorialCooper University Health Care is among the five major health systems in southern New Jersey, the New Jersey Hospital Association (NJHA) and the Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers that has launched the South Jersey Behavioral Health Innovation Collaborative (SJBHIC) to evaluate the current behavioral health landscape and provide innovative recommendations on how to improve the system. The year-long project will include engaging key stakeholders, encompassing patients, families and providers in an effort to better identify the challenges they face.

In addition to Cooper, collaborative members include Inspira Health Network, Kennedy Health, Lourdes Health System, Virtua, the New Jersey Hospital Association and the Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers.

The health systems first came together after the 2013 Tri-County Community Health Needs Assessment (Burlington, Camden and Gloucester counties) identified greater access to mental health and substance abuse services as one of the top five health issues facing the region.

To understand the challenges in the current system, the collaborative will begin gathering data from the five participating hospitals on how patients flow through their network of providers, analyze the data and then apply evidence-based and best practices along with innovative system changes that will better serve individuals with behavioral health conditions.

“Mental illness robs individuals of both dignity and decades of life expectancy; but, unfortunately, the current system is heavily focused on those times a person is in crisis,” said Adrienne Kirby, PhD, President and Chief Executive Officer of Cooper University Health Care. “Waiting until a crisis is imminent is an ineffective way to treat a chronic health condition. We need a new approach that facilitates more proactive management of mental illness. Cooper is proud to partner with our colleagues to find new opportunities to care for these patients who need our help.”

As part of the collaborative’s learning process, the five hospital CEOs and their project teams attended a kick-off event on April 15, 2015, to hear James Schuster, MD, MBA, Chief Medical Officer for the Community Care Behavioral Health Organization, discuss his award winning and groundbreaking project, “Optimizing Behavioral Health Incomes by Focusing on Outcomes that Matter Most for Adults with Serious Mental Illness.”

Schuster’s work focuses on the successful integration of primary care and behavioral health care and the SNJBHI plans to examine his best practices to see if they can be applied to communities in southern New Jersey.

According to NJHA’s 2013 Acute Care Hospital Behavioral Health Volume Report, well over a half million patients were treated for psychiatric and substance abuse concerns and discharged back into the community. In 2013, 39 percent of the inpatient admissions from southern New Jersey residents had a primary or secondary diagnosis of behavioral health.

Between 2009 and 2013, the number of ED visits by southern New Jersey residents whose primary diagnosis was a behavioral health condition increased by 20 percent, and on average, more than 100 people a day from southern New Jersey come to EDs with behavioral health as their primary concern.

“One hospital and one clinic can’t solve this systemic behavioral health crisis, it operates at the community level. People are not getting the treatment they so desperately need,” said Jeffrey C. Brenner, MD, Director of Cooper’s Urban Health Institute and Founder and Executive Director of the Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers.

Media contact:
Wendy A. Marano
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