Washington, D.C.—The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), the GE Foundation, and the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center today announced a new national institute focused on replicating Project ECHO and launched an innovative mental health clinic that could serve as a model for expanding access to mental health care across the country.
Located at the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center in Albuquerque, the ECHO Institute will focus on spreading the ECHO model across the United States and globally. Sanjeev Arora, M.D., the social innovator and liver disease specialist who created the ECHO model, will lead the ECHO Institute.
“We believe that Project ECHO will be the new norm for health care everywhere,” said John Lumpkin, M.D., senior vice president and director of the Health Care Group at RWJF. “The ECHO Institute will work to advance that goal.”
Project ECHO (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes) is a groundbreaking approach to increasing access to specialty care that started in New Mexico for hepatitis C treatment. It has now expanded beyond New Mexico and includes many other common, chronic, and complex diseases.
At a briefing held today in Washington, D.C., RWJF and the GE Foundation convened a panel of prominent experts to discuss how new care delivery models like Project ECHO can help meet the growing need for mental health and substance abuse treatment that is integrated and coordinated with primary care.
The GE Foundation’s investment in this new model reflects its longstanding commitment to improving access to health care across the nation and globally. Bob Corcoran, president and chairman of the GE Foundation, announced a new way to improve access to mental health and substance abuse treatment by bringing these services into primary care settings. The GE Foundation is funding Project ECHO to prototype and evaluate a new model of care through which Project ECHO will train and then mentor a team of primary care clinicians to provide mental health treatment at community health centers in rural and underserved areas of New Mexico. If the model proves to be successful, it will be replicated at other Project ECHO sites.
“Through our work to expand access to primary care, we fully understand the growing need to provide mental health treatment in community health centers,” Corcoran said. “This approach with Project ECHO will bring mental health care to patients in their home communities with local clinicians. We think this will not only improve access to mental health care, but ultimately improve overall well-being and quality of life for these patients and their families.”
Arora noted that the GE Foundation’s initiative underscores the flexibility of the ECHO model. “The new mental health clinic funded by the GE Foundation demonstrates the ECHO model’s potential for breaking down health care silos in different ways and support more integrated, better- coordinated patient care,” Arora said. “By bringing mental health services into the primary care setting, we will ensure comprehensive and more effective treatment for patients with complex conditions.”
Since its launch in 2003, the ECHO model has continued to draw interest, first with partner sites, then with a nationwide pilot by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, and more recently, with a global chronic pain management program with the Department of Defense. Numerous other federal agencies, academic medical centers, and even other countries are in various stages of exploring or implementing Project ECHO.
The ECHO Institute was created to meet the growing demand to replicate the ECHO model, to ensure the integrity of the model, and to connect ECHO programs nationally and globally to mine data for disease patterns and establish best practices. The ECHO Institute will develop the infrastructure and tools to help disseminate the ECHO model.
“Project ECHO is about creating a more perfect health care system – one in which patients get the care they need, when and where they need it, and the care is good quality, based on best practices,” said Richard Larson, M.D., Vice Executive Chancellor for the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center. “The University of New Mexico is proud to be a part of Project ECHO’s success.”
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The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation focuses on the pressing health and health care issues facing our country. As the nation’s largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to health and health care, the Foundation works with a diverse group of organizations and individuals to identify solutions and achieve comprehensive, measurable, and timely change. For more than 40 years the Foundation has brought experience, commitment, and a rigorous, balanced approach to the problems that affect the health and health care of those it serves. When it comes to helping Americans lead healthier lives and get the care they need, the Foundation expects to make a difference in your lifetime. For more information, visit www.rwjf.org. Follow the Foundation on Twitter at www.rwjf.org/twitter or Facebook at www.rwjf.org/facebook.
The GE Foundation, the philanthropic organization of GE, works to solve some of the world’s most difficult problems. With its partners, the GE Foundation focuses its efforts in the areas of health, education, the environment and disaster relief. In 2012, the GE family invested more than $219 million to global community and educational needs. For more information, visit www.gefoundation.com.