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Award-Winning Care—Integrating Medical and Behavioral Health Care for Homeless
Colorado Coalition for the Homeless was proudly awarded the National Council for Behavioral Health Award of Excellence for its innovative approach to integrated care at Stout Street Health Center.
DENVER, March 17, 2016 – Traditionally, primary care, behavioral health care, and addictions treatment have been provided by different agencies scattered throughout the community. The Colorado Coalition for the Homeless’ Stout Street Health Center provides patient-centered, trauma-informed care that is driven by a multi-disciplinary team, working from one care plan in one location. The National Council for Behavioral Health recognized the Coalition for its innovative approach to Integration and Wellness at Stout Street Health Center with an Award of Excellence. The Coalition’s Health Center was selected from more than 1,000 nominated organizations that provide access to comprehensive, high-quality care. John Parvensky, President of the Coalition, accepted the award at the annual conference on Tuesday, March 8th, attended by more than 4,000 leaders in mental health and addictions care.
Those experiencing homelessness—particularly those with trauma history, mental illness, and co-occurring substance use disorders—have substantially greater difficulty navigating complex service systems with multiple locations, and building trust with multiple unknown care providers. Through the integration of care, the Coalition’s primary care providers, alongside behavioral health care providers, are better able to address their patients’ needs and reduce or eliminate barriers to healing and recovery.
"We are seeing primary care patients accessing behavioral health services for the first time, and psychiatric patients becoming more active participants in managing their physical health," states Dr. Elizabeth Cookson, the Coalition’s Psychiatric Director.
Nearly 70 percent of all health care visits have a primarily psychosocial basis,1 and about 25 percent of all primary care patients have a diagnosable mental disorder, most commonly anxiety and depression.2 However, populations of low-incomes are less likely than the general public to accept a mental health definition of their problem. Therefore, it is critical for primary care providers to address their patients’ physical and psychological health needs in ways they can accept.
“The integration of behavioral and physical medical care recognizes the biological, social and psychological impacts of trauma on individuals and families. Trauma, often beginning in childhood, causes our bodies to have an extreme physiological response,” says Dr. Jennifer Perlman, the Coalition’s Trauma-Informed Care Coordinator. “Living under constant threat, in survival mode causes a host of psychological, social, and medical problems. That is why integrated care is so important in being able to address underlying psychological issues as well as the physical symptoms they cause.”
Stout Street Health Center fully incorporates patient-centered, trauma-informed medical and behavioral health care, substance treatment services, dental and vision care, social services and supportive housing to more fully address the spectrum of problems that homeless adults and children bring to their health care providers. In 2014, more than 13,000 patients received care at the Coalition’s Health Center, and 3,800 of those patients received behavioral health care.
“We started with a small primary care clinic, adapting and adding psychiatrists and counselors with the growing need. Once we recognized that the health or mental health conditions of patients still living on the streets were not improving, we began building housing,” says John Parvensky, President of the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless. “Stout Street Health Center represents the culmination of 30 years of work toward full integration of health care and housing for homeless individuals and families. We designed the space to have doctors and psychiatrists, behavioral health providers, peer mentors and case managers sitting side by side—coordinating the care of our most vulnerable neighbors—with dedicated supportive housing just upstairs. I am honored to receive this recognition on behalf of the hard-working and dedicated staff who offer hope, restore dignity, and improve the lives of those we serve every day.”
The mission of the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless is to work collaboratively toward the prevention of homelessness and the creation of lasting solutions for homeless and at-risk families, children, and individuals throughout Colorado. The Coalition advocates for and provides a continuum of housing and a variety of services to improve the health, well-being and stability of those it serves. Since its founding more than 30 years ago, the organization has earned state and national recognition for its integrated healthcare, housing and service programs. The Coalition’s comprehensive approach addresses the causes of homelessness, as well as the consequences, offering critical assistance to over 15,000 individuals and families each year. Learn more at www.coloradocoalition.org.
1 Fries, J., Koop, C., & Beadle, C., Et. Al. (1993, July). Reducing Health Care Costs by Reducing the Need and Demand for Medical Services. The New England Journal of Medicine, 329: 321–325. Retrieved from http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJM199307293290
2 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2001). Report of a Surgeon General’s Working Meeting on the Integration of Mental Health Services and Primary Health Care. Retrieved from www.surgeongeneral.gov/library/mentalhealthservices/mentalhealthservices.PDF4