JHF Board Committee for Adolescent Behavioral Health Explores Potential Health System and Community Partnerships

On February 24, the Jewish Healthcare Foundation (JHF) Board Committee for Adolescent Behavioral Health, led by JHF Board Vice Chair Daniel Rosen, PhD, MSW, met to begin preliminary discussions on strengthening health system and community-based organization partnerships. Considering the current teen mental health crisis, the committee identified a need to explore options for more integrated models of care and ensure greater access to different levels of care. Meeting attendees discussed how community-based organizations could provide prevention and early intervention services, and community-based natural supports before mental health concerns rise to a higher level and during transitions of care.

The committee heard reflections from community organizations about examples of promoting teen mental health and wellness and integrating these into teen programs over the past two years. Examples include Friendship Circle's incorporation of wellness into their mission of inclusivity, reducing isolation, and friendship; Boys and Girls Clubs of Western PA's teen outreach program promoting life skills development and fostering safe spaces for youth to build trusted relationships; and Center of Life's initiative to include mindfulness as part of their routine in facilitating programs and staff meetings.

These examples indicate the potential to further strengthen the connection between community-based organizations and health systems on teen mental health care. The flexibility of Medicaid funding has also contributed to creating a new environment in which these partnerships are now possible. To explore potential opportunities for partnerships with health plans and health systems to support the important work being done at a community level, the committee also heard from guest speakers John Lovelace, president of UPMC For You, Matthew Hurford, MD, president of Community Care Behavioral Health, and Konark Rana, senior director of strategy innovation at Highmark Wholecare.

Meeting attendees agreed that it is not difficult to align the missions and goals of community-based organizations and health plans in a way that results in financially viable and mutually beneficial outcomes. Rather, they recognized that a challenge would exist in operationalizing this due to regulations, including HIPPA. This has been done successfully elsewhere in Pennsylvania, the group noted. Further, the group explored an investment model that would train youth professionals in the community and in schools. The attendees noted that this approach would require connections with providers, to establish a procedure for warm hand-offs when youth leave providers and need to connect with community supports. The model would also involve creating a process for community-based organizations to refer youth to a provider, creating a more efficient and integrated mental health care system.

This work builds on the community connections JHF has established through years of teen mental health advocacy and continues to grow with the Teen Mental Health Collaborative. 

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