Mental health and substance-use treatment have been at the top of Peninsula Community Health Service’s agenda over the last year.
It’s added a mobile behavioral health unit and a clinic in the Bremerton Salvation Army. Now, a grant from the state will aid in opening a behavioral health hub at PCHS’s Port Orchard location.
The $1.7 million grant from the state capital budget will fully fund 16 permanent jobs, including a psychiatrist, an independent clinical social worker, a mental health counselor, a psychiatric physician assistant, two psychiatric advanced nurse practitioners and three chemical dependency professionals. There will be seven new medication-assisted treatment prescribers at PCHS, and the grant will help kickstart its psychiatric advanced nurse practitioner residency program.
PCHS is using its own reserve funds for a $250,000 match on the project.
Work will begin on the second floor of the Port Orchard location in October, with plans to have construction on the wing finished by February or March.
“It’s set to have seven treatment offices, room for group therapy visits, and then a conference room for peer review or to house community-education type visits,” said Jennifer Kreidler-Moss, CEO of PCHS. “One of the things we’re doing on our medical side is chronic disease classes, so how to better cope with chronic diseases and do small manageable goals.”
She said that the program will help patients who have mental health diagnoses or substance abuse diagnoses along with a physical health diagnosis.
“Our substance use visits grew 118 percent in 2018,” Kreidler-Moss said. “It’s been our biggest growth program. We definitely believe that integrated care includes behavioral health programs — it’s a part of who we are and what patients need.”
Gov. Jay Inslee in the last legislative session touted investments in community-based health facilities to ensure those with mental health issues find help before they enter crisis mode. Bills passed by the Legislature aim to help reduce the backlog at the state’s troubled Western State Hospital.
PCHS deals mostly with patients who have low to moderate behavioral health issues, Kreidler-Moss said. Patients who are better treated at higher levels of behavioral healthcare often find it difficult to access that care in Kitsap County, she said.
When someone needs care at that level and Western is near capacity, the patient will often be sent to a local provider like Kitsap Mental Health. Those needing the level of care that KMH specifically provides then seek out care at facilities like PCHS, Kreidler-Moss said, even though they may benefit from more intensive care than what PCHS typically offers.
“So it’s kind of this cascade of blocked access,” she said. “There’s reduced access across the system.”
But the hope is that by adding more low-level localized care like the programs being added at PCHS, mental health and substance-use needs will be addressed before a patient requires a higher level of care provided by facilities like Western State.
Joe Roszak, CEO of Kitsap Mental Health, agreed that having more physicians and providers accessible to patients needing a lower-level of care reduces the number who fall into crisis. He points to the Crisis Triage Center, which opened in East Bremerton a year ago and provides refuge to those experiencing a mental health or substance abuse emergency.
KMH has seen a 7-10% reduction in referrals since it’s opening, thanks to the increase in access for people experiencing mental health and substance-use conditions, he said.
“It’s like treating cancer at stage 1 and 2, rather than stage 4, which is when we often see patients,” he said.
In 2018, PCHS had 41,563 visits for mental health or substance-use issues. According to Kreidler-Moss, 35.5% of PCHS patients have an active mental health diagnosis, and 13.3% have an active substance-use disorder diagnosis.
“When we wrote the grant, what was interesting for us was we saw our patients who had depression or a mood disorder was twice that of our population with diabetes, and equal to our hypertension,” Kreidler-Moss said. “It’s a regular diseased state that we see with our patients fairly regularly.”
She said part of the increase in demand is from patients who are beginning to feel more comfortable talking about those health problems.
“I think our biggest success in the behavioral health program is that patients are comfortable coming to us for services and trusting us by opening up themselves for treatment,” she said.
Kreidler-Moss said having a centralized behavioral health hub that serves the entire PCHS system will be beneficial for care providers and patients. She said she hopes the hub serves as a “safe space.”
“We hope to staff it in a way that there’s always somebody there,” Kreidler-Moss said. “I hope it gets recognized as a community place where, you know, I can go to have somebody listen to me for a minute.”
The Port Orchard location is close to the Kitsap County Jail. Kreidler-Moss said PCHS will work with the jail to get inmates into its clinic system after they are released so they can get treatment for behavioral health or physical health issues.
Kitsap Sun local news editor Kimberly Rubenstein contributed to this report.
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