Delaware County residents can now combine behavioral health services with primary care as Southeast Healthcare now offers up its services for both. The company emphasizes integrated care to provide a comprehensive health experience to the community.
Incorporated in Franklin County in 1978, Southeast Healthcare has expanded its behavioral health services to Delaware, Morrow, Belmont, Harrison, Monroe, Tuscarawas, and Carroll counties. Beginning in 1996, Southeast Healthcare began offering primary care service at its Franklin County location after seeing an apparent need. Now, after seeing a similar need in the local community, those services are being made available to Delaware County.
“Southeast Healthcare is an organization that has provided service in Delaware County for some time,” said Chief Health Officer Sandy Stephenson. “Our focus has been in behavioral health and vocational. In other parts of the state, we are under a federally-qualified health center umbrella, under HRSA at the federal level, and we provide primary healthcare in its entirety and other optional services as well.”
Stephenson said that around two years ago, she realized that many of the people they were seeing for behavioral health in Delaware were having a difficult time getting their primary healthcare needs met. Many of them, she said, were using Grady Memorial Hospital’s emergency department as their primary provider or simply didn’t have a designated primary care provider.
In 2011, Southeast Healthcare became a federally-qualified health center and added primary care under that umbrella, which Stephenson said brought “many advantages” to the company and its patients.
“It really enables us to provide a lot more services, including being available 24 hours a day,” Stephenson said. “We have night call, so if we see a patient and they, at 11 p.m. or 2 a.m., have a serious medical issue … we’re on call.”
Last year, Stephenson said they surveyed their behavioral health clients and simply asked them if they would be interested should Southeast Healthcare in Delaware add primary care. “We got a resounding ‘yes’ across the board,” Stephenson said. The results also showed that for the ones who did have a designated provider, many of them had a difficult time getting in to receive care, especially if they were unable to pay and didn’t receive Medicaid, she said.
Asked what sets Southeast Healthcare apart from other local providers in the industry, Stephenson said, “We take people regardless of their ability to pay.”
Perhaps even more importantly, Stephenson said their integrated model of behavioral health and primary care is better suited to meet the full needs of their patients.
“All of us are human beings, and we carry our emotions with us, our behavioral healthcare with us, and our physical healthcare needs with us,” Stephenson said. “We’re integrated as human beings — all of that works together.”
Stephenson said Southeast Healthcare began looking at integrated models in the late 1980s and early 1990s because it seemed a better way to deliver service. With integrated services, she said they look into how both needs are affecting the person in their totality.
While such integrated services are becoming slightly more available, Stephenson said they are far from common. Frankly, she said most providers simply don’t have the resources to offer both, and are much more likely to refer patients to someone for the needs they can’t meet. In doing so, patients are often subjected to the same sets of questions they’ve already had to answer previously, whereas at Southeast Healthcare, a patient’s file is comprehensive of all care received within the company.
“It’s really nice because every time I have a patient list, the day before, I read about the patient because most of them are already seeing our behavioral health providers, vocational health providers, or somebody within the system,” said Jenny Bell, a family nurse practitioner at Southeast Healthcare. “When that happens, I can read all about their background, find out who this person is, and already know what’s going to happen tomorrow. I can figure out how I need to approach them. If there’s trauma involved, I need to take that into account. If this person is homeless, they have different issues than someone who has a home … It’s stuff like that with full integration where you can really see them as a whole person.”
Stephenson added, “When people come to us, it’s not just what people say is going on. That’s really important, but it’s also learning more about their general health and these social determinants of health, because we can intervene there as well.”
In addition to Bell, the care team will include a licensed practical nurse and a care manager. Among the services the staff provides are preventative care, management of chronic conditions, women’s health services such as cervical and breast cancer screenings, family planning, child care, vaccinations, immunizations, prescriptions for Suboxone and Vivitrol for addiction recoveries, and more. Lab testing is also done on-site to provide added convenience to patients.
Stephenson said Southeast Healthcare is open in Delaware on Tuesdays for “regular business hours” and will eventually open on Wednesdays as well. From there, she said the demand for services will dictate whether they open for additional days.
To learn more about the services Southeast Healthcare provides, visit its website at www.southeasthc.org. Contact the Delaware office by calling 740-695-7795.