Embedded Therapist Partnership Improves Behavioral Health Access

More doors are opening for families in need of behavioral health care, thanks to a new collaboration in Lincoln County. Partners Behavioral Health Management and Lincoln County Department of Social Services (DSS), with assistance from Support Incorporated, have created the Embedded Therapist Partnership to give families much needed access to behavioral health and crisis services.

A variety of factors including transportation, money and insurance, and time, prevent many families from getting assessments and services from counseling agencies. Through this program, families can now see a therapist located right at DSS. Parents and children have access to the behavioral health professional before or after weekly supervised visits, while applying for Medicaid or food assistance, or while already using the daily public transportation route including a stop at DSS. Because the service is funded by Partners, the program also eliminates some insurance barriers traditional assessments involve.

The program has already increased the number of families seeking and getting help. In the first six months, the program assessed and referred over 150 children, adolescents, and adults through Lincoln County DSS. Most of these were referred to the therapist from the Child Protective Services and Foster Care units.  Of these initial cases, 46% have been successfully closed by DSS. Another 33% are in mental health or substance use treatment and making progress. 18% chose not to seek treatment. Only 3% were referred into higher levels of care.

Beginning in February 2016, therapist Patrick Barrett, employed by Support Incorporated, has worked at Lincoln County DSS eight hours a day, five days a week. Each day he observes staff and works with them to understand and respond to the trauma foster children feel and the issues their families face. He helps improve DSS processes, helps people who come to DSS for assistance, and provides quick assessments. All of these efforts pave the way to services and placements for family members who need them.

Patrick Barrett, employed by Support Incorporated.

“The time and frustration of this [behavioral health engagement] process has been greatly reduced and assessments are complemented by his sharing of resources and information,” said Susan McCracken, Lincoln County DSS Director.Simply put, Patrick is a door to the complicated mental health world.

Lincoln County DSS employees benefit from having easy access to clinical consultation for difficult cases. Also, staff can have clients assessed more rapidly, can have immediate access to assessment results, and can have help engaging clients in treatment. DSS receives monthly updates and training on relevant and necessary clinical issues to enhance services for families.

“This relationship has been a remarkable success for families and staff. Patrick can provide immediate assistance, assessments, information, and training for everyone involved in complicated cases,” said Andrew Schrag, Partners’ Regional Director of Community Operations. “Now people are getting resources and referrals they need right away rather than having to delay progress while connecting parties to appropriate care providers.”

Through this program, each family member can also be connected to the services and resources they need individually. Local agencies like the Lincoln County Child and Family Collaborative, DSS, the Division of Juvenile Justice work together and with Patrick to compile and share resources. The joint effort allows agencies to identify and fill gaps in services, streamline the processes to enter services, resolve barriers to treatment access, and improve treatment compliance. For example, if DSS has an open case on a family, the children and the parents may all need treatment. Collaboration between the agencies serving these families can enhance outcomes for each member. Rather than treating each family the same, and each member of the family the same, this type of collaboration allows more flexibility for person-centered planning and treatment to address unique needs.