Collaborating with FQHCs on behavioral health innovation in Michigan

Inventing a better future for health care requires learning from the past and using those insights to fuel innovation. UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of Michigan strongly values innovation as a catalyst for progress. As part of our commitment to enhance access, improve health outcomes and reduce disparities in the communities they serve, UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of Michigan has launched a $500K grant program to support innovation at Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs).

The Strengthening Access, Strengthening Communities program provides five FQHCs with $100K each to improve the health and well-being of communities in Michigan.

Recognizing that FQHCs are often a first touchpoint for the communities they serve, UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of Michigan is collaborating with grant recipients to deliver equitable, whole-person, community-centric care solutions.

Recipients of the grants are all focused on adding new behavioral health and/or Substance Use Disorder (SUD) capabilities or supplementing their existing behavioral health programs. These services are in high demand at FQHCs.

Demand grows for behavioral health care at FQHCs

The need for prevention and treatment of mental health and substance use disorders is expanding as FQHCs serve increasing numbers of patients and communities in crisis. In 2020, 21% of United States adults had a mental health condition such as depression, anxiety or schizophrenia; 17% of youth had a major depressive episode; 11% of adults had an alcohol use disorder and 7% of adults had an illicit drug-use disorder.1

Medicaid provides coverage for 1 of every 7 adults and 1 of every 2 children2, and is the single largest payer for behavioral health services in the United States.3  With so many individuals struggling with mental health or substance abuse issues, health plans like UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of Michigan and local FQHCs are uniquely positioned to collaborate for expanded behavioral health care in their communities.

Integrating more behavioral health care within existing programs is an effective solution for patients but requires organizational change for FQHCs. The Strengthening Access, Strengthening Communities grants will help fund staffing, training, screening and facility expansion programs for FQHCs in both rural and urban areas of Michigan.

Innovation in action

The five participating FQHCs are each addressing a different need for enhanced access to behavioral health care.

  • InterCare Community Health Network in Bangor, Mich., will be recruiting more mental health clinicians, peer recovery coaches, and case workers, as well as expanding their telehealth services to help remove barriers to care and access. Virtual Group Visits are also being adapted for behavioral health care. Research points not only to the value of telehealth in treating patients in remote locations, but also to the value of a telehealth platform housed in FQHCs, which serve primarily underserved populations.4
  • Cherry Health in Grand Rapids, Mich., recently began providing urgently needed integrated Office Based Opioid Treatment (OBOT) at its Southside Health Center. The opioid crisis is now recognized as a national health emergency. In Michigan, deaths from opioid overdoses have increased from 118 in 1999 to 2,809 in 2021.5
  • Family Health Center (FHC) in Kalamazoo, Mich., recently quadrupled their behavioral health therapists on staff, working in several specialties, to meet the growing demand for mental health services in patients of all ages. To maximize their effectiveness, FHC leadership identified an opportunity to create standardized screening protocols for suicide, depression and anxiety. Expanding their medication-assisted treatment (MAT) program is also a priority.
  • Great Lakes Bay Health Centers in Saginaw, Mich., is developing training for Intensive Trauma Treatment certification, acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), Perinatal Mental Health certification, Trauma-focused Cognitive BH therapy (TF-CBT) and motivational interviewing. They are also developing a library of short instructional videos covering cardiac care, hypertension, diabetes and weight loss to provide consistent, accessible information for patients.
  • MidMichigan Community Health Services in Houghton Lake, Mich., reports their SUD services are in high demand and that they have had success integrating care on-site. They are planning to remodel clinic facilities to streamline workspace for additional staff and improve access for patients. Co-location of services in many FQHCs has reduced transportation barriers, allowing patients to travel to just one location for primary care, behavioral health care, dental and vision appointments.

Investing in positive change 

Through collaborations like the Strengthening Access, Strengthening Communities program, UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of Michigan is creating a positive dynamic for change. Encouraging and investing in practical and purposeful innovation provides benefits for the entire health care system.

With that encouragement and investment, the five FQHC grant recipients are inventing a better future for their communities. Their success reflects UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of Michigan’s vision for innovative health care that serves everyone more fairly, productively and consistently. 

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