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HAVEN Free Clinic to expand behavioral health program

November 01, 2017

The student-run HAVEN Free Clinic is expanding its behavioral health program through a series of workshops that will promote integrated care and target underserved communities in New Haven.

The program, Health Advocacy, Communication, and Teamwork (Health ACT), will help community members and providers understand the relationship between behavioral and physical health with the goal of improving service delivery and care.

The program was authored by Abigail Greene, a student in the MD/PhD program at Yale School of Medicine; Michelle Silva, PsyD, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Associate Director of the Connecticut Latino Behavioral Health System; and Robert Rohrbaugh, MD, Professor of Psychiatry and Deputy Chair for Education and Career Development in the Yale Department of Psychiatry.

It was funded by an American Psychiatric Association Foundation Helping Hands Grant. The program encourages medical students to participate in community mental health and substance use disorder activities, particularly those focused on underserved populations.

HAVEN, which provides free care to patients and is partially funded by Yale, used a Helping Hands grant to launch its behavioral health program in 2012. Health ACT expands service delivery through two series of workshops – one for providers and one for community members – that will teach skills for effective cross-cultural communication about behavioral health during primary care visits.

“A lot of the time these issues aren’t brought up during visits,” Greene said. “A lot of times (patients) aren’t even asked about (behavioral health), but also sometimes they don’t see how it’s relevant to their care.”

One workshop series has been designed for community members, in this case members of refugee and immigrant communities in New Haven. The other series is for health providers on HAVEN’s clinical teams, whose student members span the disciplines of medicine, nursing, physician’s associates and public health.

The curriculum is the same for community members and providers, although the materials are appropriate to both groups.

In the first workshop, participants will learn how to broaden the definition of health by exploring connections between behavioral and physical health. They will be taught to recognize and address signs of common behavioral health concerns, then are asked to share their perspectives to identify shared values and carriers to care.

The second workshop will focus on learning best practices to participate in care integration, including practical communication skills for both groups and core competencies for providers. During the third and final workshop, providers and community members will jointly discuss behavioral health issues and barriers to care, and practice communications skills they learned during the previous sessions.

Each session will include a pre- and post-test and questionnaire to assess the effectiveness of the curriculum and to gauge participant satisfaction.

Greene said the program should help community members and providers become more comfortable talking about behavioral health and prepare providers for working with diverse populations.

“The key is developing a tool kit that will be useful to providers given the constraints on their time and resources,” she said.

Submitted by Christopher Gardner on November 01, 2017