Amarillo Area Foundation announces $475,000 grant to increase mental health care access
This article was originally published by Amarillo Globe-News on April 30, 2022.
The Amarillo Area Foundation Thursday announced a $475,000 grant to collaborate with the Meadows Health Policy Institute in an effort to enhance mental health care access and outcomes for residents across the Texas Panhandle.
Clay Stribling, president of the Amarillo Area Foundation, spoke about the impetus for the partnership to enhance mental health care in the region. He said that the grant was in line with its strategic plan to focus on mental health and well-being.
Stribling said that the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted that mental health care required significant overhauls in treating it.
“Access in our rural communities is an enormous problem,” Stribling said. “This partnership is going to work to remove the traditional mental health barriers of stigma and access.”
May is National Mental Health Awareness Month.
As part of the foundation’s partnership with the Meadows Institute, mental health checks will integrate into patients’ visits with their primary care physicians through existing entities Coalition of Health Serves Inc., BSA Healthcare System and Family Medicine Centers.
Failure to identify and treat depression early, lack of access to treatment, and public perception are significant barriers to individuals getting the mental health care they need.
The program provides for universal screening for depression and other mental health conditions and substance use disorders, and it implements measurement-based care and a collaborative care model.
Melissa Rowan, chief operating officer at the Meadows Institute, spoke about creating a comfort level for patients to be able to discuss mental health issues in a less specialized setting that could benefit them.
“When primary care physicians are the first person to ask you the basic questions around mental health conditions, people will see it as medical treatment and not as something different that we have to be ashamed (of), that you know it’s a medical issue,” Rowan said.
Rowan said that by making mental health part of the regular screening process, patients are less apt to see it as a stigma and create a barrier to getting help. She said that this would make treatment more effective, since it would be treated earlier and reduce costs for patients.
“It’s really an opportunity to enhance what primary care physicians are already doing by regularly screening and detecting mental health issues,” Rowan added. “It’s just like you do when you go to primary care for well check, just some extra questions … if that screens positive, then there is a plan on what you do from there.”
Michael Cruz, the chief executive officer of BSA Health System, spoke about the benefit to the market and the need for access.
“This is a tremendous opportunity for this market and the Panhandle,” Cruz said. “It allows for multiple resources to be funded in both the rural communities and Amarillo to give us a blanket of resources for individuals of the Texas Panhandle.”
The new program will be used by the Coalition of Health Services in Hereford, the BSA Health Care System in Amarillo and Canyon’s Family Medicine Centers.
The full article is available online here.