Members of the Collaborative Care Behavioral Health initiative at Newton Corner Primary Care Practice, from left: David Kroll, MD; Meghan Sullivan, MAIR; and Christine Dimodica, MSW, LICSW

In honor of National Professional Social Work Month in March, Alison C. Todd, MSW, LICSW, ambulatory care social worker, highlights a new collaborative care model for primary care patients with behavioral health needs.

The Collaborative Care Behavioral Health initiative was rolled out at the Newton Corner Primary Care Practice in the fall of 2016. Using a model that exemplifies the Caritas process of “being” the caring-healing environment, the Newton Corner practitioners implemented this program to offer an interprofessional approach to care for patients with behavioral health needs.

This approach brings together primary care physicians (PCPs), a social worker, a consulting psychiatrist and a population health manager (PHM) as a team to provide comprehensive and coordinated care for patients diagnosed with depression, using a validated depression scale (PHQ-9). The team chose to focus initially on depression because of the prevalence of the illness in the general population and the lack of easily accessible resources available in the community.

Research has shown that 10 percent of PCP visits are related to depression and that more than 50 percent of depression care is provided in the primary care setting. These findings highlight the critical role that the collaborative care team plays in the development and maintenance of a “helping-trusting, authentic caring” relationship with this patient population.

Christine Dimodica, MSW, LICSW, the social worker at Newton Corner, shared her experience using this model over the past six months.

“This model has given us the ability to reach a larger population of patients who may have been silently suffering with depression and gives us an avenue to provide exceptional care to the individual in an environment that is comfortable to them,” she said.

Dimodica works closely with the population health manager Meaghan Sullivan, MAIR, who adds that this model has “helped patients feel better cared for and more connected to their doctors … while opening up a variety of services within their primary care practice, including PHM phone calls, social work calls and visits, as well as psychiatric medication management, if needed.”

This program has received resounding praise from enrolled patients thus far.