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CareOregon Grants to Expand Behavioral Health Services

Mental and physical health and a person's lifestyle choices are so closely linked that some clinics are adding behavioral health services, funded by CareOregon. Credit: Amanda Mills/CDC.
Mental and physical health and a person's lifestyle choices are so closely linked that some clinics are adding behavioral health services, funded by CareOregon. Credit: Amanda Mills/CDC.
September 29, 2015

PORTLAND, Ore. – CareOregon is making a $7 million investment to add staff and more behavioral health services to some of the clinics in its provider network.

Mental health services have traditionally been separate from other types of health care, but that is changing.

The idea behind a Coordinated Care Organization (CCO) is patients receive better care when they're able to get most of their health needs met in one location by a familiar team of providers.

Mindy Stadtlander, director of network and clinical support with CareOregon, says the expanded service will help Medicaid or Oregon Health Plan members with a wide range of conditions.

"We think about depression and anxiety and PTSD, and all of those more lifestyle-risk factors, alcohol use and substance use, nutrition and exercise," she says. "All those changes that we know are really hard to make. They can provide an extra hand and extra support."

CareOregon says the grants are a big step, since Medicaid reimbursement for behavioral health services can be challenging. Research has shown solid links between mental and physical health.

The CCOs include Health Share Oregon in the Portland metro area, Jackson Care Connect in Jackson County, and Columbia Pacific in Clatsop, Columbia and Tillamook counties.

One of the stipulations for the more than two dozen clinics is that they collaborate with each other during the expansion process. Dr. Christina Milano, Portland-area medical director with CareOregon, says that's important because integrating different types of care is a major transition.

"We have a handful of clinics who have already established some best practices around how to do this, having co-located behaviorists in the clinic, side-by-side with primary care providers," she says. "So what we already know works well will be shared by those who are doing the work."

The practices receiving the money will expand their services over the next year, with CareOregon monitoring their progress and providing technical support.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OR