Mercy Launches Pilot Program to Help Complex-care Patients Access Primary Care

SPRINGFIELD — The COVID-19 pandemic has brought numerous challenges to healthcare providers, including an uptick in the number of patients in need of services for substance-use disorder (SUD). Social distancing, the suspension of in-person support-group meetings, a shift to telehealth services, and other factors have made it more difficult for individuals suffering from SUD to access and adhere to treatment, leaving them at risk of aggravating their condition.

Mercy Medical Center and Trinity Health Of New England Behavioral Health work together to meet the unique needs of patients and their families who are seeking treatment for various behavioral-health diagnoses, such as SUD. The Whole Person Clinic is a primary-care clinic for patients of the Mercy Accountable Care Organization who have struggled with a traditional primary-care model. In many instances, substance use and behavioral-health issues have made it difficult to access primary-care medical services.

In an innovative team approach, patients at the Whole Person Clinic meet with their primary-care physician and a behavioral-health specialist to monitor their condition and encourage their progress. Under the direction of Dr. Ari Kriegsman, medical director of Addiction Consultation Services for Mercy Medical Center, the clinic provides an environment that fosters recovery through an improved, comprehensive patient experience and flexible scheduling of appointments, all poised to result in better patient outcomes and fewer hospitalizations.

Additionally, as the recipient of a grant through the state’s Cost-Effective, Coordinated Care for Caregivers and Substance Exposed Newborns (C4SEN) Investment Program, Mercy is also working to improve the care that is provided to substance-exposed newborns and their caregivers by tracking their clinical encounters across the entire hospital system. The new process allows providers to better coordinate patient care, referrals, and follow-up, ultimately supporting the long-term effectiveness of SUD treatment.

“While the past year has been hard for everyone, individuals struggling with substance-use disorder have had a particularly difficult time as many of the services they depend on were suspended at the height of the pandemic,” Kriegsman said. “Mercy Medical Center’s commitment to providing a healing environment for these patients sets it apart from other community hospitals, and this dedicated focus is the result of the vision and support of hospital leadership.”

The Whole Person Clinic is open exclusively to individuals who have MassHealth and are patients of the Mercy Accountable Care Organization (ACO). For more information about joining an ACO, call the MassHealth Customer Service line at (800) 841-2900 or visit the MassHealth enrollment website at to select a new ACO.