HCN News & Notes

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation Issues Grants

BOSTON — The Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation has awarded more than $1.5 million in grants to 10 healthcare organizations to support programs that improve access to healthcare and coverage for vulnerable and low-income residents, including a new grant program designed to expand access to behavioral health urgent care for adults across the Commonwealth.

“When people get sick in the middle of the night or injured on the weekend when their primary-care provider is closed, they can seek non-emergency care at an urgent-care center,” said Audrey Shelto, president of the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation. “Unfortunately, that option is not readily available in Massachusetts for people seeking urgent, outpatient care for a mental-health or substance-use disorder. Our goal with the new grant program is to develop an urgent-care infrastructure that is parallel to the medical system.”

The new grant program, called Expanding Access to Behavioral Health Urgent Care, will provide $1.2 million to six organizations for the initial planning year, including two in Western Mass:

• Brien Center for Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services in Pittsfield, a provider of round-the-clock crisis assessment, intervention, and stabilization services to anyone experiencing a behavioral-health crisis in Berkshire County, received a $200,000 grant to help ensure same-day access for outpatient services, adequately staff its ESP clinic so that it remains open to address both urgent and emergent needs, and increase the bed capacity of its Community Crisis Stabilization program.

• Clinical & Support Options in Northampton, an emergency-services program serving Franklin County, Hampshire County, and the North Quabbin area of Worcester County, received $183,000 grant to develop a sustainable model for behavioral-health urgent care by improving urgent psychiatric evaluations for patients who do not already have a provider and enable ongoing monitoring and support to adults for seven days after the initial crisis intervention, among other initiatives.

A second set of grants will support efforts by interdisciplinary teams of social-service and healthcare organizations to coordinate services for the well-being of their clients. The foundation awarded $300,000 in Going Beyond Health Care grants to four organizations to support a collaborative, cross-sector approach to addressing the social determinants of health for low-income and vulnerable populations. The grantees receiving $75,000 each, also for a planning year.

Of these one is based in Western Mass.: Way Finders, a community-development organization and the largest nonprofit housing provider in the region. Way Finders will partner with Behavioral Health Network and Mercy Medical Center to support families and provide clinical care as they move from shelter to permanent housing in Springfield and Holyoke. Together, they will address barriers that lead to housing instability and poor health outcomes.

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