North Texas’ mental health resources are constantly strained by the region’s booming population and lack of beds. While the entities that manage mental health in the region work well together to make sure those that need inpatient services receive them, there are even fewer resources for patients discharged from a mental health facility in the region.
But a new clinic in South Dallas operated by the North Texas Behavioral Health Authority is meant to bridge the gap between a mental health facility and a return to independence, while reducing the number of high utilizers of healthcare in the region, reports the Dallas Observer.
The facility is unofficially called The Living Room, and since May has seen around 200 clients who are often bused in after leaving the emergency room or jail, the Observer reports. Many of the clients are homeless and/or are dealing with substance abuse issues. The facility is staffed by social workers, and connects clients with housing and other services while helping them manage their medications so they don’t slip through the cracks after leaving jail or the hospital.
High utilizers of healthcare often seek treatment at the emergency room for non-emergent needs, and rather than receiving help in a more efficient way, their only contact with the healthcare system is one of its most expensive. In the long run, these costs are picked up by hospitals and passed on to taxpayers and corporations through taxes and higher insurance premiums.
Coupled with the fact that Texas is the state with the highest number of mental health professional shortage areas in the country and the has the third worst mental health spending per capita by state agencies, entities all over the reason are getting creative about how to address high utilizers and an inefficient use of the healthcare system.
At Baylor Scott & White, community health workers are trained to make contact with high risk Medicare patients to help them manage their medication, schedule appointments, and address other Social Determinants of Health, with impressive results in reducing hospital visits. At MedStar in Fort Worth, the emergency services provider is piloting a program to divert high utilizers from the hospital, as many who call 911 do not need to go to the hospital, but merely need urgent care or another less costly service. The program uses a nurse to triage the 911 call on the front end before deciding what level of care is needed. In the last several years, the program has saved over $25 million in unnecessary healthcare costs.
This new model from NTBHA fits into this movement to reduce hospital readmission, shwoing promise along the way. Read more about the new facility here.