Monday, February 20, 2017

Helping Patients With Behavioral Health Needs

In my last blog, I discussed the issue of Emergency Department (ED) overcrowding and its causes. One of the reasons why people might wait at the GBMC ED is because we are overwhelmed with behavioral health patients who have nowhere to go because the mental health system is inadequate. What is GBMC doing to improve this situation?

There is a wide range of disorders and severity in the category of mental health and substance abuse. A patient may experience a new onset depression that if we address early may be easy to treat and resolve. At the other end of the spectrum, we have patients with disorders like autism and schizophrenia that are chronic diseases that require long-term attention and treatment.

We have made a promise to our patients in advanced primary care – in our patient-centered medical homes to own the patient’s health with him or her. This goes for all health issues including mental health.

The GBMC advanced primary care practices are conveniently located throughout Baltimore County, with offices both on our hospital campus and in the community.  They have extended weekday and weekend hours to be available to those they serve as the need arises. The typical primary care office is not designed to care for patients with mental health needs. Primary care physicians often lack the time or expertise to effectively counsel patients with behavioral issues.

So, the GBMC HealthCare System received a grant from the Health Services Cost Review Commission to add mental health professionals to the advanced primary care team. The grant is providing the resources for working closely with Sheppard Pratt Health System, Mosaic Community Services, and Kolmac Outpatient Centers to proactively address the behavioral health needs of our patients. Together, we are integrating behavioral health services in GBMC primary care offices and working to better connect patients to specialty programs.

We are in the process of adding new team members to the primary care practices: full-time behavioral health consultants who are licensed social workers and consulting psychiatrists, from Sheppard Pratt, and substance use consultants from Kolmac and Sheppard Pratt. The primary care physicians will refer patients to the onsite behavioral health consultant and he or she will bring in the psychiatrist as needed if counseling (motivational interviewing, behavioral activation, problem-solving therapy) alone is not enough to meet the patient’s needs.

The substance use consultant will be engaging patients in counseling (motivational interviewing) and resource navigation. As part of the collaboration with Kolmac, the advanced primary care sites have access to an addiction psychiatrist.

Currently, our Family Care Associates practice on campus and GBMC Joppa Road have all three services. Our practices at Owings Mills, Hunt Manor, and Internal Medicine on campus have the consulting psychiatrist and the substance use consultant. By the end of March, ALL FIVE of these sites will have all three team members. By July, the full program will be implemented at all of our advanced primary care sites. I am very excited that we are adding these professionals to our patient-centered medical homes. Patients with behavioral health needs will be much better served because of them!

Random Acts of Kindness...
Last week, we celebrated our 2nd “Random Acts of Kindness (RAK) Week.” With this year’s event, we engaged even more of our workforce to help spread kindness throughout our healthcare system. Each hospital department, GBMA practice and Gilchrist Services’ locations received a Kindness Kit, complete with tools to be kind to colleagues and those around you. The kits contained candy, KIND bars (generously donated by KIND), and Kindness cards. The cards came in packs of 12 and each contained a unique kind act. Cardholders were encouraged to either do the action on the card or make up their own, check off that they completed it and then challenging someone else to be kind.  I’m looking forward to finding out how some of the cards fared, where they traveled and what wonderful things our employees did for each other.

This year, we also created a new Random Acts of Kindness Ambassador Award. I was told by the RAK Week planning committee that they received many worthy and outstanding submissions of wonderful acts of kindness by our employees, but two stood out above the rest. Congratulations to Ray Morgan (Security) and Amy Gourley (Unit 57 MICU) in being selected as the co-recipients of our first Random Acts of Kindness Ambassador Award.

Thanks for being kind to each other year round and to everyone who helped with this endeavor and for making it such a success!

Food Drive…
Speaking of kindness, just a reminder that in honor of Black History Month, we’ve been accepting donations of canned goods and non-perishable food will that will help the Assistance Center of Towson Churches (ACTC), a consortium of 50 churches that provide support to needy families in our community.  Donations will be accepted until Friday, Feb. 24.  Please consider dropping off non-perishable food items to one of our various drop-off locations in the main hospital or at all GBMC community primary care offices.  For more information, please visit This is truly an important initiative because many local families are in need of food year round.

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