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New health services partnership launched in Littleton

Members of the administration teams from both Amoonoosuc Community Health and White Mountain Mental Health celebrate the launch of Crossroads in Littleton on Aug. 28. Crossroads offers primary care services to mental health patients that might be otherwise be too intimidated to visit health care facilities. (Photo by Angel Larcom) (click for larger version)
September 05, 2019
LITTLETON — On the morning of Aug. 28, staff and administration from White Mountain Mental Health and Amoonoosuc Community Health Services gathered to celebrate the launch of Crossroads, an integrated approach to health care for the mentally ill.

"This has been a wonderful collaboration. It's about meeting patients in their comfort zone and getting services to them in a place where they feel comfortable," said Teresa Brooks, the Chief Operations Officer of Ammonoosuc Community Health.

Brooks continued, "It's difficult to get mental health patients to come to a health care facility. There is a lot of angst around that. Crossroads is a wonderful way to take care of them and maybe get them to a health care facility at some point. Many of them do not get any care at all, and chronic care conditions are not being addressed. With this program, we can take care of the whole person."

According to Suzanne Gaetjens-Oleson, the Regional Mental Health Administrator and Chief of Operations at White Mountain Mental Health, the partnership between the two organizations began two years ago in Berlin. Due to the overall success of the program in that community, the decision was made to extend it to Littleton.

Gaetjens-Oleson said, "In our Littleton location, we currently serve seventy patients who have no Primary Care Physician (PCP) and who have been diagnosed with mental illness. This project will enable us to help these patients get the primary care services they need in a setting in which they are comfortable, increasing their compliance with medications, appointments and recommendations."

"People with mental health and substance abuse disorders may die decades earlier than the average person, mostly from untreated and preventable chronic illnesses like hypertension, diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease," continued Gaetjens-Oleson. "These conditions are aggravated by poor health habits, such as inadequate physical activity, poor nutrition, smoking, and substance abuse. Poor personal hygiene and health habits are symptoms of severe mental illness."

According to Gaetjens-Oleson, behavioral health symptoms are exponentially impacted by physical health problems in the same way that physical health impacts behavioral health. The solution, she said, lies in integrated care and the systematic coordination of general and behavioral healthcare.

"Providing preventative care can reduce health care costs dramatically," said Gaetjens-Oleson. "Prevention can reduce the significant economic burden of disease in addition to improving the length and quality of people's lives. Treatment, lost productivity, and health care costs are significant burdens to the economy, families, and businesses."

White Mountain Mental Health received seed money for the Crossroads project through an IDN (Integrated Delivery Network) grant. According to Gaetjens-Oleson, the initial $125,000 to $135,000 of grant funds was invested in construction and equipment the establish program sustainability at the Maple Street location.

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