Christie Announces Expansion of Integrated Health Care

By Michael Hill

At the Catholic Charities of Trenton roundtable, they told the governor how they turned around their lives, getting behavioral and physical health care and more under one roof.

“We’re average, normal, everyday people. We’re not what you see in the media. That’s what happens when you don’t get the right mental health,” said behavioral health patient Robert Hedden.

“They helped me with housing. I’ve been clean for three years now,” said Darrel Brown.

More recovery success stories can happen if and when and as New Jersey’s Departments of Human Services and Health continue to rid the state of regulations that act as barriers to integrated health. That’s what this study concludes. Seton Hall University Law Professor John Jacobi co-authored it for the Nicholson Foundation.

“The problem that arises if you provide the services in a separate setting, there are people lost to follow up. It is difficult for people with serious mental illness to maintain complicated schedules of doctors visits. It is much better from a clinical perspective to provide services for someone when they’re in a setting in which they’re comfortable where they’re receiving their mental health care to just take them down the hall so that they can see an advanced practice nurse,” Jacobi said.

Five years ago, Catholic Charities offered integrated care for one day a week, and it says it saw drastic cuts in emergency room visits and hospitalizations.

“It’s such an impressive outcome and it’s not disruptive,” said Catholic Charities of Trenton Association Executive Director of Operations Harry Postel.

Under the Affordable Care Act, it expanded two years ago to five days a week. Psychiatric care right next to the pharmacy.

“So people don’t have to leave or forget to go get their prescription,” Postel said.

Catholic Charities in Trenton says it knew it had to offer integrated health care services when it looked at the numbers of those who typically benefit from those kind of services have a lifespan that’s 25 years shorter than the rest of the population.

“It’s never been easier to help people achieve their goals,” said Program Director Cheryl Davis.

This is one of four behavioral health homes in the state. Today Gov. Chris Christie said the model is so successful he’s expanding it by seven new agencies in New Jersey.

“Because you just get a much better consistent quality of care if you see the same physician privately all the time than you do if you’re bouncing in and out of emergency rooms despite the best efforts of the doctors and nurses there. If they only see you once, it’s very hard for them to understand exactly how to treat you if they don’t know and understand your history,” he said.

The governor says the integrated care models are the result of his administration knocking down regulatory barriers, ones the industry says have hindered better health care and lowering costs for far too long.

“The focus on the state level and the federal level has to be the person. What is it that we need to do in order to help that individual succeed,” said Executive Director Marlene Lao-Collins.