Integrating Primary Care & Behavioral Health at Lynn CHC: Kiame Mahaniah & Mark Alexakos

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Primary care models integrating behavioral health services are being adopted across the country. This week, we talked with two leaders at the Lynn Community Health Center (LCHC), Dr. Mark Alexakos and Dr. Kiame Mahaniah, about their experience with integration.

LCHC is unique among community health centers in that it started out as a mental health counseling center, and now has the largest community health center-based behavioral health program in Massachusetts. In this conversation, we talk about what it means to integrate behavioral health services with primary care clinical services – how it can reduce the fragmentation of services to better meet the needs of patients and the demand for mental health care (2:40), why it may better position clinics participating in accountable care (7:40), what successes they’ve seen (8:45), and the resources it has required (12:28). Along the way, our guests make it clear that the staff at LCHC love working in integrated teams. You can learn more about various other models of integrated behavioral health here.

Mark Alexakos MD, MPP, is the chief behavioral health officer of LCHC. He has a joint degree in medicine and public policy and developed an early interest in the interface between policy, research, and service delivery as they relate to access barriers, health disparities, and community health. Before working at LCHC, he spent seven years developing intensive, school-based mental health services that combined health promotion and prevention with quick access to behavioral health treatment in five Boston Public Schools.

Kiame Mahaniah, MD, is the chief executive officer of LCHC, though at the time of this interview, he served as the chief medical officer. His passion resolves around social and restorative justice, in the context of healthcare.   His twin clinical interests are teaching—he holds an appointment at the Tufts University School of Medicine—and integrating opioid addiction treatment into the primary care/behavioral health matrix.

This interview was edited lightly for length and clarity.

photo credit: Lynn Community Health Center

Frederick Chen – Teaching Health Centers

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Teaching health centers (THCs) are primary care residency training sites in community-based organizations, often in federally qualified health centers (FQHCs), in contrast to traditional tertiary care hospital-based training. Federal funding for the THC program, created by the ACA in 2010 and renewed through MACRA in 2015, is set to expire on September 30, 2017.

THCs may be a key part in solving the primary care workforce shortage, so we talked with Dr. Frederick Chen, Professor of Family Medicine at the University of Washington and a recent senior advisor to HRSA’s Bureau of Health Professions for the Teaching Health Center program.

We review flaws in traditional methods of funding graduate medical education in the US (2:50) then discuss Freddy’s research (8:15) showing that residents trained in FQHCs are 3-4 times more likely to go work in underserved settings. He also describes the key factors in creating community health center-family medicine residency partnership (12:20). Freddy’s work led to the THC graduate medical education program, an innovative federal policy that aims to increase access to primary care where it is needed the most, and we talk about some of the early lessons since its inception (18:50). You can also find the controversial 2014 Institute of Medicine report mentioned by Freddy in our conversation here.  Finally, Freddy shares about how his academic career led him to help shape national health policy (23:07).

Listen at the end of the episode for a promo code to receive 15% off registration fees for an upcoming conference from the Harvard Center for Primary Care: Primary Care in 2020 – Future Challenges, Tips for Today.

This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Journal Club – Exploring the Patient and Staff Experience with the Process of Primary Care

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This week, we bring you a journal club on the manuscript: Exploring the Patient and Staff Experience with the Process of Primary Care, which was published in Annals of Family Medicine in the July/August 2015 issue by Elizabeth J Brown, Shreya Kangovi, Christopher Sha, Sarah Johnson, Casey Chanton, Tamala Carter, and David Grande.

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