Rochester’s Regional Primary Care Network (RPCN) has just announced that it is bringing in a $1.5 million grant to improve health care treatments for patients facing behavioral issues, according to a statement made by Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-Fairport, on Monday, Sep. 21.
The RPCN focuses on behavioral health concerns, such as mental illnesses like depression and schizophrenia, as well as substance abuse problems and addictions. The Network currently serves 10 health facilities across Monroe County, according to the Rochester Business Journal, as well as several health centers in neighboring Finger Lakes counties.
The Democrat and Chronicle and WXXI News reported that the $1.5 million grant was part of a three-year award from the United Health Foundation. The RCPN plans to use the money to combine multiple trends and technologies in healthcare, including incorporation of behavioral health concerns into primary care practices and incorporating telemedicine options for primary care doctors to consult specialists.
The funds will also directly improve screenings for depression and substance abuse so that at-risk patients can receive information and preventative treatment options before developing one or more of these costly health problems.
As the Rochester Business Journal reported, monthly costs for a patient dealing with depression along with another chronic illness are around $560 higher than the costs for a patient who is facing a chronic illness without depression.
Behavioral treatment costs tend to be expensive partly because the medications and treatment options often aren’t fully covered (or covered at all) by insurance companies, but even before treatment can even be administered, the diagnosis of a mental or behavioral health problem must be addressed. As the officials at RPCN aptly noted, this isn’t always easy.
Take, for example, the case of a child acting out in school. It’s possible that his or her lack of attention developed naturally over time and became attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), or it could be a result of growing up without much parental guidance; in fact, of all the kids living with divorced parents today, over 60% live with one parent while the other permanently resides over an hour away. Add in factors like heavy workloads at school, a stressed-out single parent, and dealing with social pressure from peers, and it’s easy for a child’s mental and emotional health to slip through the cracks.
Without the proper diagnosis, the proper treatment probably won’t be provided. And without the proper treatment, a behavioral concern can snowball over the years into a costly, and sometimes even life-threatening, issue that persists into adulthood.
The screenings funded by RPCN’s grant award won’t just address these problems as they occur in teens and young adults, but will also address concerns with older patients who may be at risk for developing a mental illness or substance abuse problem.
The grant has called for 75% of RPCN’s current patient database to be screened for depression and substance abuse problems by a team of specially-trained in-house clinical social workers, nurses, and other medical assistants.
The RPCN currently serves approximately 81,000 patients in 23 different locations, and the group expects around 16,000 patients in Monroe County will receive the screenings.