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RI Foundation grant boosts behavioral health program

Published 05/26/2020

South County Health is the recipient of a $74,570 COVID-19 Behavioral Health Fund grant from the Rhode Island Foundation. These much needed funds will help support South County Health’s efforts to help Washington County residents who are struggling with anxiety and other forms of behavior health issues.

This funding will allow South County Health to staff a full-time Behavioral Health Care Manager for 12 months to provide integrated health care, successfully increasing inpatient and outpatient behavioral health services to those vulnerable populations.

“Each person may deal with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic differently,” said Liz Fortin, Director of Community Health Integration. “The behavioral health care manager will expand our capacity to serve those suffering acute distress related to COVID-19.”

This role will serve a caseload of 100-125 patients per year, including those with suicidal thoughts and anxiety related to life stressors. He or she will also provide interventions to stabilize uncontrolled health concerns, and develop care plans to address ongoing needs.

“The behavioral health care manager will also take additional referrals from our emergency department, hospital-based case management, and support peer recovery,” Lynne Driscoll, Assistant Vice President Community Health, said. “This position will also assist our primary care practices and home health patients.”

The behavioral health care manager will remain engaged with identified patients providing counseling, coaching, care coordination, and case management support until the goals of each patient or staff are met.

“As the only independent health system in Rhode Island, South County Health is the preeminent provider of care – including behavioral health --for Washington County and communities beyond. We are committed to serving the needs of individuals in our community with a focus on both their physical and emotional health,” said Aaron Robinson, President/CEO.

South County Home Health staff saw 4,716 unique patients last year with more than 50 percent of them suffering from a co-morbid mental health issue.    

“South County Home Health, our visiting nurse branch of the system, is seeing a 25 percent increase in support needs,” Aaron said. “As telehealth usage has been increasing to reduce in-person visits due to COVID-19, anxiety issues are also on the rise as many older patients struggle with technology.”

In addition, an increase in behavioral health needs in the emergency department over the next year is expected, including a surge in suicidal thoughts as our community addresses the impact of COVID-19.

“Despite these unbudgeted expenses, patient care is our top priority. This Behavioral Health Fund grant from the Rhode Island Foundation will allow us to increase staff capacity to better manage the COVID-19 crisis,” Lynne said.