A Small Behavioral Health Agency Thinks Big

April 13th, 2017 - Search for Change CEO Ashley Brody has seen the future, and he knows HealthlinkNY will be part of it.

For 40 years, the small nonprofit Search for Change has done one thing, and done it very well. It operates supportive housing and vocational training programs in Westchester and Putnam counties for adults diagnosed with severe mental illness, so individuals can be as self-sufficient as possible.

Now, Search for Change is contemplating its own future. Government agencies increasingly prefer to contract with a handful of bigger providers that can offer a broader range of services, particularly for Medicaid beneficiaries. Therefore, as a niche organization serving primarily Medicaid recipients, Search for Change needs to evolve to survive.

Well, the agency plans to both survive and thrive.

“We’ve been reading the tea leaves and preparing for the future,” explains Ashley Brody, CEO, who says the organization is looking to grow and diversify, both to serve its mission and to preserve its future. He says he’s not yet sure how Search for Change’s services will evolve, but he knows the agency will be more prepared for the future if it connects to HealthlinkNY now.

“Data integration is the key to service coordination,” Mr. Brody says. “We’ve recognized the imperative to integrate primary care records with behavioral health records, but to do that effectively, we have to be able to access the wealth of data that exists in the Health Information Exchange.”

Incentives to Change

Search for Change signed a HealthlinkNY participation agreement last month. Up until now, the small agency had neither the need nor the capability to connect its electronic health record (EHR) system to the HIE. But two things convinced the agency to take the step now.

First, Search for Change was eligible for New York State’s Data Exchange Incentive Program (DEIP), which recently was expanded to include behavioral health providers. The incentive covers the incidental costs of connecting to the HIE. (Read more about DEIPs here.)

Second, HealthlinkNY’s Web Portal allows Search for Change to immediately benefit from the connection by accessing records, so in the meantime they can build up the infrastructure for a bi-directional interface between their EHR and the HIE.

“HealthlinkNY has been wonderful,” notes Mr. Brody, adding that HealthlinkNY has been quick to respond to emails and willing to meet with him and his staff to launch the connection.

Case in point:  Mr. Brody is learning how Search for Change can use HealthlinkNY to improve quality of life for its supported individuals, many of whom are diagnosed with serious chronic diseases as well as mental health illness. HealthlinkNY can help the agency integrate care and possibly avoid hospitalizations, which can be traumatic for this population. “We are trying to integrate care to help individuals remain stable and avoid unnecessary trips to the emergency room,” he says.

“HealthlinkNY will help Search for Change locate individuals, who are free to come and go, when they go missing, a common occurrence,” he adds. “HealthlinkNY can help us resolve missing cases that can go on for weeks or month, and cause distress to the individuals’ families.” Often individuals end up in emergency rooms.

With HealthlinkNY, Search for Change will receive an alert if a missing person goes to the ER. Says Mr. Brody; “That by itself is worth the price of admission.”