Just in time for Mental Health Awareness Month, Phillips County Health Systems and High Plains Mental Health have collaborated to open an Outpatient Mental Health Clinic that will serve patients of the Phillps County Medical Clinic and provide integrated care of both their physical wellness and their mental health.

(Press Release courtesy of HPMHC) *** High Plains Mental Health Center (HPMHC), in partnership with Phillips County Health Systems (PCHS) and the United Methodist Health Ministry Fund, is piloting an “integrated care” model for providing mental and behavioral health care within the physical health care setting. This partnership will improve access to mental and behavioral health services for Phillips County and the surrounding area residents and signals a shift from the traditionally “siloed” approach to providing care.

“This project is a perfect example of community partners working together to ‘think outside the box’ and create a plan to meet the needs of an identified group of people,” explains David Anderson, High Plains’ Director of Clinical Services. During interagency discussions, HPMHC and PCHS identified two major gaps in service that they hoped to address. First, some of the individuals referred to High Plains by PCHS seemed hesitant to seek services at High Plains’ Phillipsburg office due to the stigma associated with going to the formal mental health center to receive services. Second, PCHS staff were looking for a way to assess patients in their acute hospital beds for co-occurring mental health and/or substance use disorder issues.

“Although the connection between physical and mental health is well understood among healthcare professionals, the resources haven’t been there for primary care medical providers to appropriately screen and connect patients to care. By providing this integrated care model within the Phillips County Medical Clinic, our providers will have a variety of resources that they can utilize to care for the whole person, body and mind,” said Rex Walk, PCHS CEO. “Phillips County Health Systems is dedicated to improving access and integration of mental health services. We are excited to work with High Plains Mental Health, a partner that deeply understands the impact poorly treated mental health has on overall health.”

To address the first issue, High Plains will send therapist Amy Bird to Phillipsburg every Thursday to see patients on-site and to ease the referral process between agencies. In order to provide timely mental health assessments to patients in Phillipsburg, the group turned to Tele-Video Conferencing technology that will link therapists in Hays directly to hospital rooms in Phillipsburg. This will allow High Plains’ to provide assessments, develop plans of care, and provide services or referrals to services in a convenient and effective way.

This partnership is made possible by the generous support of the United Methodist Health Ministry Fund, which is providing the capital to launch this cooperative effort. “We greatly appreciate being able to partner with the staff at the United Methodist Health Ministry Fund,” Anderson says. “Without their financial support, we would not have been able to make this project with PCHS work.”