Finding and maintaining outpatient mental health services is a challenge, leading many individuals with behavioral health issues to seek care at emergency departments.
Our Pledge to Connect program aims to connect emergency department (ED) patients to timely outpatient behavioral healthcare. In the longer term, our goal is to make sure behavioral healthcare access is available before an emergency visit occurs.
Pledge to Connect takes lessons learned from our 7-Day Pledge initiative — a city-wide effort to connect Medicaid patients to primary care within seven days of hospital discharge — and applies them to behavioral health. This project is also aligned with the performance targets for behavioral healthcare connection set out by New Jersey’s Quality Improvement Program (QIP-NJ).
Two new pathways to care connection
Pledge to Connect partners include Oaks Integrated Care, Cooper University Health Care, and Virtua Health System. In the first phase of Pledge to Connect, we worked together to design two new pathways to connect ED patients who have behavioral health needs to timely outpatient care.
High acuity pathway
Patients with more severe and persistent mental illness, who are in the ED for an acute mental health crisis, and who have complex social barriers receive face-to-face visits with Oaks case managers that are embedded in the ED. The case managers connect patients to ongoing care at Oaks, and also make connections to services like emergency housing, food resources, and substance use treatment.
Low acuity pathway
Patients with more mild to moderate mental health concerns and less complex social needs receive a follow-up phone call from Camden Coalition community health workers (CHWs) after they are discharged from the ED. CHWs check on how the individual is doing and offer to help them connect to behavioral health, primary care, and social services.