After Katrina: Integrating Behavioral and Primary Health Care in the New Orleans Metro Area

A Quality Improvement Learning Collaborative Paves the Way for Health Care Integration

Field of Work: Integrating behavioral and primary health care

Problem Synopsis: Hurricane Katrina and the subsequent breach of the levee system caused catastrophic damage to the health care infrastructure and workforce in the New Orleans metropolitan area. This loss converged with elevated rates of mental illness to seriously challenge the delivery of local primary care and behavioral health care services.

Synopsis of the Work: The project team supported the learning collaborative through five didactic and interactive workshops, five roundtables and one-on-one technical assistance with national experts via conference calls and in-person visits.

Key Results: An evaluation measured outcomes, examined challenges and identified lessons.

  • The number of primary care sites with behavioral health staff increased from 13 to 20 sites.
  • About 78 percent of patients who needed to see a behavioral health professional were able to see a provider at their primary care clinic.
  • The project team helped the Louisiana Department of Health & Hospitals secure a Medicaid Demonstration Waiver that includes reimbursement for behavioral health services and thus preserve the accomplishments achieved under this initiative.

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