Sunflower Foundation Initiative to Support Integrated Care

TOPEKA – Nearly 30 medical safety-net providers throughout Kansas are participating in a philanthropic effort aimed at improving the coordination of medical and mental health services.

The organizations are involved in the initial $1.3 million funding round of the Sunflower Foundation’s Integrated Care Initiative.

There is a mix of health and mental health providers among the dozen lead grantees and their partner agencies, said Melody Martin said, a program officer with the foundation.

“We’ve got a ton of diversity,” she said.

Some of the grantees are planning for integrated care. Others already have begun implementing the practices.

The foundation announced the full list of grant awards last week. They range from $12,500 to $200,000, and from six months to two years.

“It is sort of a customized type of program,” said Billie Hall, the foundation’s chief executive. “We don’t have across-the-board outcomes for each (project). They have to tell us where they are, where they are going and how they are going to know when they get there.”

The Health Partnership Clinic in Johnson County was one of the grant recipients.

The money will help it expand collaboration with the Elizabeth Layton Center, the community mental health center for Franklin and Miami counties. The two organizations share space in Paola.

The grant will allow the clinic to hire a clinical social worker as a behavioral health consultant, said Jason Wesco, the clinic’s chief executive.

The goal, he said, would be for the consultant to be available for quick interactions with a patient visiting the clinic for a medical issue who may also display some mental health problems.

Wesco said he hoped that by the end of the two-year grant, the clinic would be able to support the position through reimbursements from a mix of public and private insurance.

If the Kansas Legislature expands Medicaid eligibility to 138 percent of the poverty level, as envisioned by the federal Affordable Care Act, Wesco said, “that would change the discussion quite a bit.”

Meanwhile, mental health advocates in the Kansas City area are moving forward with an integration initiative of their own, according to Susan Crain Lewis, co-chair of the Metropolitan Mental Health Stakeholders group.

She said the group has scheduled five, free “integration training” forums for this year, starting with a kickoff session the morning of April 24. The main goal is for the provider community to address common problems by sharing best practices.

The plan is to hold subsequent sessions every other month between June and December, with the Mid-America Regional Council hosting the forums at its offices, 600 Broadway, Kansas City, Mo.

The idea for the sessions grew out of a survey the stakeholders group did last year to determine the extent of integration and identify barriers to collaboration. Lewis said the session topics were chosen based on the responses about the barriers.

At the opening session, Lewis said, the group hopes to have representatives from the Missouri Department of Mental Health and the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services.

David Swann, a North Carolina practitioner and consultant known for his expertise in integration is on tap as the session’s keynote speaker.

He would provide an overview and long-term perspective, Lewis said.

“The question is, what could this look like 5, 10, 20 years from now?” Lewis said, “so that we do not spend the next couple of years sort of framing, regrouping and changing the way we do business and then spend the next two years undoing it because we didn’t look at the big picture.”

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