Program Aims To Curb ER Use, Integrate Mental Health and Primary Care

Oct 11, 2013

The Providence Center has received a $1.7 million dollar federal grant to try to help people with mental health problems avoid the emergency room.  The program could help hospitals, and the state, slash some of the most expensive medical bills.      

The grant pays mostly for case managers, or coordinators, to work with patients who frequent emergency rooms for chronic mental and physical illnesses. The coordinators will help them get health insurance if they don’t have it. And they’ll help connect them with a primary care doctor. Providence Center spokeswoman Fay Baker says coordinators will receive special training in something called “motivational interviewing” that will help them work with people who might be reluctant to stop using the emergency room.

“We’re looking at identifying people who use emergency rooms as their usual source of primary care," said Baker. "These are often people with chronic health conditions that could be well-managed if they were involved in primary care on a regular basis.”

Baker said they plan to serve at least 600 such patients who visit the emergency rooms of Care New England hospitals, like Kent Hospital. She says that because an emergency room visit can cost thousands of dollars, the new program could save a lot of money just by preventing those visits.