UNC WakeBrook, a mental health facility in Raleigh, has received a $1.6 million federal grant to provide basic medical care and dental care for people who have serious mental illness and don’t have a doctor.
The grant is part of a program created in 2009 by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to provide integrated medical care for people suffering from serious mental illness. The four-year grant will pay for basic medical care, such as regular check-ups and screenings, and will also include dental care, smoking cessation and pharmacy services.
WakeBrook’s clinic currently treats about 250 patients and is expected to expand to 750 with the federal funding. Most of the patients are too ill to hold down jobs and receive health care irregularly, often resorting to hospital emergency rooms for treatment. Some live in group homes, supportive housing and, occasionally, homeless shelters.
WakeBrook plans to use the grant to fill a “peer support” position to keep track of patients and help them access medical care, through phone calls, home visits and transportation.
“If they don’t show up for their appointments we’re going to look for them and try to bring them in,” said Brian Sheitman, WakeBrook’s medical director.
The program will target a patient population suffering from schizophrenia, major depression, bipolar disorder and personality disorder. Such patients are also dealing with diabetes, obesity, asthma, high blood pressure and substance abuse.
Those who don’t have disability payments, Medicaid or other means for paying for medical services will receive free care, Sheitman said.
The SAMHSA grant, amounting to $400,000 a year, represents a fraction of WakeBrook’s $19.5 million annual budget. WakeBrook is owned by Wake County and has been operated by UNC Health Care since 2013.
The goal of the SAMHSA program is to improve patient care and reduce costs to the health care system by preventing illnesses and unnecessary ER visits. WakeBrook’s goal is to demonstrate the program’s effectiveness and to win continued funding.
“It’s almost impossible to show benefits in one year, but over four years we really have an opportunity to show we can improve clinical outcomes and save money,” Sheitman said.