Primary care providers will integrate with mental health sites in Springvale and Biddeford through a $1.6 million grant to Maine Behavioral Healthcare from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

The strategy behind the funding is that many mental health clients do not get regular primary care and may be more comfortable receiving medical care in a behavioral health setting, explained Jeannine Lepitre, Maine Behavioral Healthcare’s senior vice president for recovery services, who will oversee the grant project.

“Our goal is to address the total health of our clients by integrating and coordinating behavioral health and medical health,” she said. This “project is one way to achieve this.”

The grant is for four years. Primary care partners are Nasson Health Center in Springvale and the Maine Medical Center Physician Hospital Organization. The focus population is adults with both serious mental illness and chronic physical health conditions, specifically a substance abuse disorder, asthma, diabetes, heart disease, hypertension and obesity.

The project is a “reverse or full-spectrum” integration initiative, because it brings primary care providers into a behavioral health practice instead of the more typical practice of placing mental health providers in a primary care setting. By the end of year four, the program is estimated to serve at least 600 clients.

Maine Behavioral Healthcare was created in 2014 to provide an integrated continuum of comprehensive, coordinated behavioral health care for Maine residents of all ages by merging Spring Harbor Hospital with three nonprofit community mental health agencies ”“ Community Counseling Center, Counseling Services, Inc. and Mid-Coast Mental Health Center ”“ into a single, unified organization with multiple locations throughout southern, western and Midcoast Maine.

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