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Upper Mississippi Mental Health Center gets $150,000 grant

Lenore Barsness, executive director of the Upper Mississippi Mental Health Center, and Paul Nistler display a $150,000 donation from the Healthier Minnesota Clinic Fund. The grant will allow UMMHC to create a new Access Clinic, for which Nistler will be clinic manager. Submitted Photo

Upper Mississippi Mental Health Center has received a $150,000 grant from the Healthier Minnesota Clinic Fund.

The center has spent a difficult year and a half laying the foundation for fiscal recovery with some early success becoming evident, according to a UMMHC news release. This grant was written in September to strengthen its overall sustainability plan.

The Healthier Minnesota Community Clinic Fund is an independent foundation with a mission to improve the quality of health care for low income persons, communities of color, and the medically underserved. The foundation has provided more than $18 million in grants to health-care providers in the state meeting the eligibility criteria.

The grant will help UMMHC deliver a new service model called the Access Clinic, which is designed to provide same-day services to assist consumers to initiate behavioral health services more readily. It is a more person-centered approach that places strong emphasis on customer service. It will closely resemble a model promoted by the National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare called the Access and Retention Quality Improvement Initiative.

The traditional service delivery model for behavioral health has been based on appointments scheduled in advance. The Access Clinic will help the center to become less reliant on appointments for certain services in both its Park Rapids and Bemidji sites. The center experiences very high rates of failed appointments, the result of which is that the cost of delivering services has become financially unfeasible, not a unique circumstance for mental health centers, according to the news release.

The new model also makes better use of current resources such as the therapeutic team, without increasing those costs.

UMMHC will work closely with area human services agencies, medical providers and other referral sources to ensure that the new Access Clinic will be properly utilized.

In addition, the center will engage in extensive community awareness to ensure consumers are informed about the Access Clinic, its hours and the services offered.

The grant permits the center to implement the Access Clinic in phases and covers the costs of a high level of public information and awareness as it grows over the next year. The goal is to offer it four days per week by the end of March 2011.

Lenore Barsness, executive director, authored the grant application after researching new models of service delivery more than a year ago.

"It seemed to me that the medical industry had been experiencing similar challenges and they'd partly solved it by offering urgent care clinics," Barsness said. "I intuitively felt there was likely to be a model adapted to the unique challenges of delivering same day behavioral health services."

This model is a momentous shift in the way clinicians traditionally think about service delivery, consumer relations, and related duties, which is one of the reasons funding was necessary to import what will be a transformative process, the news release states.

Paul Nistler has stepped into the clinic manager role for the Access Clinic. He will work cooperatively with existing clinical staff and the clinical director in all developmental stages. He has managed the mobile crisis unit and other projects for UMMHC.