COOK COUNTY RETURNS TO MEDIUM-LEVEL RISK FOR COVID: Cook County has returned to a COVID-19 risk level of medium after weeks at high risk.
As of Friday, Lake and DuPage counties remain in the high-risk category, while Cook, McHenry, Will and Kendall counties are in the medium-risk category. Throughout the state, 28 counties meet the Centers for Disease Control’s criteria for high community level for COVID-19 and another 43 counties are at medium community level, the Illinois Department of Public Health said in a statement. READ MORE.
GROUPS CALL FOR INTEGRATION OF BEHAVIORAL HEALTH: A group of physician organizations say it is time to accelerate the process of integrating behavioral health into primary care, to “close the unmet need for mental health services and substance use disorder treatment.”
The groups released a “call to action” published in Health Affairs saying they cannot build a system of whole person care by themselves.
The BHI Collaborative includes the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, American Academy of Family Physicians, American Academy of Pediatrics, American College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists, American College of Physicians, American Medical Association, American Osteopathic Association, and American Psychiatric Association.
“Even with a clear recognition that our primary care systems must urgently embrace a paradigm shift to stem the growing behavioral health crisis, there remain significant challenges in building clinical pathways that provide whole person care,” said AMA Immediate Past President Dr. Gerald E. Hamon, co-author of the call-to-action. “These challenges cannot be overcome by physicians alone, and we are calling on payers and policymakers, among other industry stakeholders, to rally around a set of key solutions in partnership with physicians.”
The group calls on employers, health plans and other payers to support five ways accelerate widespread adoption of behavioral health integration (BHI):
• Expand coverage and fair payment for all stakeholders utilizing BHI models;
• Evaluate how and when to apply cost-sharing for integrated services (whether delivered in person or via telehealth);
• Assist primary care practices by offering technical support, provider training and regional sharing of resources;
• Minimize and/or eliminate utilization management practices for BHI services; other
• Launch whole-person, employer-based behavioral health programs with intentional culture-focused work to destigmatize behavioral health.
It is also looking to federal and state policymakers to:
• Provide long-term sustainable funding opportunities for training and education on implementing BHI services;
• Raise payment levels for BHI services for all stakeholders in federal and state coverage programs;
• Work with health plans and coverage programs to limit utilization management review practices, enforce behavioral health parity laws, and strengthen network adequacy regulations; other
• Increase federal funding with the aim of growing the behavioral health workforce especially for those who practice in underserved areas.
Mark Del Monte, CEO of the American Academy of Pediatrics said action is needed immediately.
“Pediatricians have observed and raised alarm about the mental health crisis confronting children and adolescents well before the pandemic, and we are now facing a pivotal moment where urgent action is needed in and outside of pediatric offices to help confront it. It is our hope that this publication garners interest and commitment from other partners across the healthcare ecosystem, particularly payers and policymakers, to work with the physician community to make needed changes,” Del Monte said in a statement.
BECKMAN INSTITUTE USING ULTRASOUND IMAGING TO STUDY ALZHEIMER’S: Researchers at the University of Illinois’ Beckman Institute have received federal funding to develop ultrasound imaging methods for studying the neurovascular changes underlying Alzheimer’s disease.
The hope is their low-cost, widely accessible technique could help in early detection, according to a statement from the institute.
Researchers are seeking to understand the directionality of interactions between plaque deposition, microvascular changes and cognitive impairment, a major challenge in the field. The collaborative project is supported by a two-year, $421,500 R21 grant from the National Institutes of Health designed to fund exploratory and early-stage research.
NORTH LAWNDALE HEALTH CENTER GETS $2M GRANT: A Safe Haven Foundation said in a statement that it has received a $2 million federal grant secured by US Rep. Danny Davis, D-Chicago, to open a behavioral health care center at its corporate flagship location in North Lawndale.
Safe Haven will convert and staff the now-closed COVID-19 Medical Respite into A Safe Haven’s Behavioral Healthcare Center, scheduled to open in late 2022. It will be strategically located on the premises of A Safe Haven’s 140,000 square foot four-acre facility located in Chicago’s impoverished North Lawndale Community and near some of Chicago’s top safety net hospitals, Cook County Jail, the medical district, and two veteran hospitals, the statement said.
The center “will close the gap for the growing pent-up demands for mental and behavioral health care services by people living in one of the most socially and economically distressed communities and populations hit hardest by the opioid epidemic and mental health and homeless-related issues now made worse by the pandemic,” the statement said.
WOODLAWN CELEBRATES OPENING OF HEALTH CENTER: Friend Family Health Center held a grand opening Friday of a new health center in the South Side Woodlawn neighborhood, which will serve 35,000 patients annually and create 250 new jobs.
The $43 million, two-phase medical campus at 63rd Street and Cottage Grove Avenue will provide physical, behavioral and dental health services to the medically underserved area, Friend Health said in a statement.
Friend Health is a federally qualified health center with six locations on Chicago’s South Side, including Back of the Yards, Gage Park/West Englewood, Hyde Park/Washington Park, Woodlawn, West Elsdon, and a school-based health center in Bronzeville.
“Every Chicagoan, regardless of where they live, must have equitable access to quality health care,” Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said at the grand opening. “The new Friend Healthy Facility and its dedicated staff will make a measurable difference for the residents and families of Woodlawn and further address the need for comprehensive health services across our city. I’m proud to celebrate this moment with the entire Woodlawn community.”
OUTSOURCED SERVICES GOING ‘IN-SOURCED’ AT NORTHWESTERN WILL RESULT IN 200 LAYOFFS: Savista at Northwestern Memorial Hospital said in an Illinois WARN employment report that 202 employees will be laid off at several Chicago offices as outsourced employees are replaced with in-sourced employees.
Northwestern Medicine inherited the relationship with Alpharetta, Geo.-based revenue cycle management company Savista through the McHenry-based Centegra Health System, which merged with Northwestern Medicine in 2018, a Northwestern spokesman said in an emailed statement.
“As part of the integration process, we determined it would be more efficient to bring this corporate function in-house with our already established structure,” the statement said. “We anticipate hiring newly 200 workers to fill these roles.”
PEOPLE ON THE MOVE
• Oak Point University has awarded two male nurses prizes in its #BadassNurses Contest, the nursing school said in a statement.
Cesar Huerta and Colin Orr were each awarded a vacation package for two and will appear in phase two of Oak Point University’s ‘Built to Be Baddass’ campaign that features nurses and their stories, the statement said.
Huerta is a quality reporting analyst at Access Community Health Network in Chicago. Orr is an emergency department nurse at Rush Copley Medical Center in Aurora.