Last week’s merger of Buckelew Programs and Family Service Agency of Marin (featured in local media here and here) highlights the continuation of a trend toward greater integration of services among mental health providers. La Piana Consulting was privileged to work with Buckelew and Family Services in the development of this relationship. Their decision to merge in order to better serve the community is one that we’re seeing made across the country with greater frequency, especially in light of the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. These organizations determined that there is a need for the development of more integrated services – including mental health, primary care, job training, housing, and various forms of counseling – to broaden the platform of services. The wave of the future is pointing to the creation of more integrated services allowing for one organization to provide all needed services in a wrap-around philosophy for clients and their families.
Current federal and state and county health care planning is moving rapidly in this direction. Public agencies are seeking to consolidate the purchasing of services, and are merging their own agencies as well (e.g., the California Department of Mental Health and the California Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs are in the process of being consolidated into a single Department of Health Care Services). The consolidation of nonprofit services and the increased purchasing of integrated services are considered to be both a greater value and a better practice for the provision of services to clients. One of the goals within the integration of mental health, substance abuse, counseling, job training, housing, and primary care is to help reduce hospitalization and emergency department use. The reduction in the utilization of hospital and emergency room care is a primary goal for health care reform, with the resulting reduction of costs.
The merger of Buckelew and Family Services will result in a more holistic approach within one organization with a complete array of services that treat as many of the needs of clients as possible, enabling more coordinated transitions between the various services to clients as their needs either increase or decrease. From an operational and administrative perspective, Buckelew Programs and Family Service Agency of Marin are working to develop a staffing infrastructure with clear lines of communication and the efficient and effective integration of finance, billing, personnel, resource development, and executive management.
This partnership was supported by county agencies contracting with both organizations, as well as by regional funders recognizing the potential to create a model of integrative services.
Together, these organizations desire to be identified as the “go to” organization by primary care providers, from initial crisis to ongoing care, with the reduction in complexity for patients – and one place to call for seamless services. Until now, there has not been a single agency that could provide the community with this level and continuum of care, integrating services to the seriously mentally ill together with supports for their families.