Valley View Health Centers will continue to offer behavioral health services after the official grant-funded program called the Social Innovation Fund ended in June.
In 2013, New York-based philanthropic organization The John A. Hartford Foundation originally awarded the center a two-year grant with $170,000 of funding per year. Lewis County provided matching funds through a 1/10 of a percent sales tax.
The program was able to stay alive by charging for service after Medicaid was expanded under the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.
Now that the services are established, the center plans on continuing to fund the program through charges for service, clinic leader Tyler Stewart said. The clinic is in the process of contracting with insurance companies to accept as many plans as possible.
The program brought mental health services into the clinic, which also offers medical and dental services. By having it in the clinic, it allowed doctors to screen for depression alongside other medical conditions, Stewart said. Patients with a major injury, heart disease and diabetes, to name a few, can have depression linked to them.
“The team-based approach has increased a patient’s overall health,” he said.
The program has also helped bring behavioral health treatment to people who would not necessarily seek it or follow up with if referred by a doctor, clinic doctor Tre Normoyle said. By having a mental health professional in the clinic as part of the team, patients are more relaxed.
“It helped to break down barriers from care due to stigma,” she said.
Over the last four years, around 640 patients have been seen through this program.
The program is designed for short-term care and treatment of anxiety and depression, Normoyle said. The length of the program is shorter and is designed to get patients on the path to recovery, with the average treatment time of six months.
In the beginning, the clinic did not charge for the care provided through the program because of the grant, Normoyle said. Over the last few years, the clinic has worked on making the program self-sustaining. That has been made easier because more people now have insurance through the ACA, she added. If those people lost their insurance then the program as a whole would suffer, she said.
“I would say it would drastically impact the people who need it,” Normoyle said about the law being repealed. “(We) see a lot of patients express that concern.”
The clinic also uses a sliding pay scale to help low-income patients get care, Stewart said.
“We don’t turn people away if they can’t pay,” Normoyle said.
Another thing the clinic uses to provide mental health care is “telemedicine.” A patient talks to a doctor via phone or video chat to discuss symptoms and care. The clinic uses it to have patients talk to psychiatrists from the University of Washington, Normoyle said. Patients in the rural parts of the county can also get phone consultations with doctors at the clinic.
“I think in the future we will be using more telehealth,” she said.
Valley View has 12 clinics throughout Lewis County, with the main center in Chehalis. Services offered vary per clinic, Normoyle said. In the future, the clinic hopes to offer more services at more clinics.
“It has been a great success,” Normoyle said about the program. “It has made a difference in this community.”