Boston Children's Physicians' Group Receives $1 Million in Additional Funding to Support Innovative Behavioral Health Integration Program

The Pediatric Physicians' Organization at Children's (PPOC), a preferred Boston Children's Hospital Community of Care member and one of largest pediatric primary care physician organizations in the U.S., announced that it has received an additional $1 million dollars in funding from the Payor-Provider Quality Initiative, to expand its behavioral health integration (BHI) program aimed at improving access to pediatric behavioral health services for children and families in need.

The new program involves collaboration between the PPOC and Boston Children's Departments of Psychiatry and Social Work. "Boston Children's and the PPOC share the goal of providing the highest quality pediatric care in convenient community settings," saidSandra Fenwick, president and CEO of Boston Children's. "Through the behavioral health integration program, the PPOC has taken an important step towards meeting that goal by improving access to care and more seamless coordination of services for our patients and their families with behavioral health needs."

The PPOC's program has received a total of nearly $2 million in funding through the Provider-Payer Quality Initiative (PPQI), a unique partnership established by Boston Children's with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, Tufts Health Care and state Medicaid. Launched in 2009, the PPQI's mission is to accelerate the transformation of the pediatric care delivery system by exploring innovative approaches, models, tools and technologies to improve health outcomes and reduce medical costs.

"The issue of behavioral health care services delivery is a major challenge facing primary care physician [PCP] practices," said Greg Young, MD, president and CEO of the PPOC. "Through the behavioral health integration program, we believe we can improve health outcomes for thousands of children and their families, while also taking steps to reduce health care costs."

The program implements a new model of care, integrating behavioral health specialists in PPOC practices to assess patients, provide treatment, and make referrals as necessary. Integrating behavioral health providers, along with strengthening partnerships with community-based clinicians and specialists from Boston Children's department of Psychiatry, will increase access and shorten wait times for needed services.

In a recent survey by the PPOC of its physician members, 71 of 72 practices said that addressing gaps in behavioral health service delivery was their top clinical priority. The PPOC's new program aims to address these gaps in services by bringing together several components including the creation of a behavioral health learning community for PCPs, nurses, medical home care coordinators, and other practice staff.  The learning community provides continuous education for the medical home team on the specific behavioral health needs of children.  The PPOC's BHI team is also providing clinical and operational support to practices that are transforming their model of care to include the management of behavioral health as a core competency.  "There is a tremendous need for primary care physicians to think more holistically about child health and expand their capacity to address childhood health issues beyond the physical," says Jonathan Benjamin, MD, a PPOC physician with Drs. Benjamin, Spingarn, & Rottenberg in Newton, Mass. "The PPOC's new program will help PCPs address their patients' behavioral health needs, ultimately providing better care for patients and their families."

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