Alliance Health Launches Web-Based Behavioral Health Screening Tool

(Morrisville, NC) – Alliance Health has launched an online screening tool to help people determine if they or someone they care about should connect with a behavioral health professional. The easy-to-take screening is completely anonymous and confidential, and provides quick results, recommendations for next steps, and valuable resources that can offer help.

Completing a screening at AllianceHealthPlan.org/screening can help an individual understand if their recent thoughts or behaviors may be associated with a common, treatable mental health or substance use issue. Users can choose a screening for depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, substance use, or a variety of other concerns, or can take a “wide range screening” if they’re not sure what is at the root of their feelings.

“A web-based screening tool cannot replace assessments from a professional, and the results are not a diagnosis,” points out Alliance Chief Medical Officer Mehul Mankad, M.D. “However, a screening can provide valuable insight to help folks better understand what they or a loved one may be feeling, and where they can reach out for help if needed.”

The screening tool was developed by MindWise Innovations of Dedham, MA to increase prevention through early identification of mental health and substance use issues. With the goal of fostering psychological safety and cultural change, the program helps organizations like Alliance Health prioritize awareness efforts, while maximizing existing investments in community wellness. Over 16 million screens have been taken to date using the MindWise platform.

“The isolation and anxiety of COVID-19 highlights the growing need for more mental health and substance use resources,” said MindWise Senior Vice President Bryan Kohl. “We are firmly committed to providing organizations with a platform to support the behavioral health of their communities – something that’s now more important than ever.”

If you or someone you know is feeling suicidal, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-TALK (8255) or text ACT to 741741. Alliance Health also maintains a toll-free 24/7 Access and Information Line at (800) 510-9132.

Public Hearing on Budget Approval Process

A public hearing on Alliance Health’s proposed FY20/21 budget will be held on Thursday, June 4 at 4:00pm via a virtual meeting. The meeting can be joined by clicking here. Persons wishing to speak at the hearing must sign up to do so prior to the start of the meeting.

Community Mental Health Center at Cape Fear Valley Crisis

24/7 Operations Begin at Cumberland Recovery Response Center

Cumberland Recovery Response Center (CRRC) is now operating 24/7 at its facility at 1724 Roxie Avenue in Fayetteville.

Formerly known at the Roxie Center, it provides a range of services for people experiencing mental illness and substance use disorder. CRRC is one of the facilities operated in the four-county Alliance Health service area that is designed to provide a clinically appropriate, community-based option to help stabilize those in behavioral health crisis without a hospital emergency department or inpatient setting. Alliance is the managed care organization for publicly-funded behavioral health services for citizens of Cumberland, Durham, Wake and Johnston counties who are insured by Medicaid or are uninsured.

CRRC employs a warm open concept called “The Retreat” that offers behavioral health urgent care and a 23-hour observation unit where individuals are assessed by a psychiatric nurse practitioner or physician’s assistant to determine their needs. Based on that assessment, psychiatric evaluations are conducted, medications are started or continued for mental health concerns, detox protocols are initiated for substance use concerns, peer support is provided, and basic needs are addressed.

The Retreat has the ability to stabilize individuals 18 years and older for up to 23 hours until the next appropriate level of care is secured, which may include community services, facility based crisis services off-site, or inpatient hospitalization. CRRC is expected to begin offering in-house facility based crisis services in late summer of this year. People can walk into the facility or call the Alliance Access and Information Center at (800) 510-9132 to learn more.

CRRC is operated by RI International, a national leader in developing and providing recovery-oriented behavioral health and substance use disorder crisis services. It has been operating crisis assessment and stabilization services since 1990 and currently operates 12 state-of-the-art crisis programs across four states. This includes the Recovery Response Center in Henderson as well as the Durham Recovery Response Center.

Alliance SOC Coordinators Pitch in to Staff Hope4NC Helpline  

Four Alliance System of Care (SOC) Coordinators have stepped up to help staff the state’s Hope4NC helpline, which connects North Carolinians to mental health and resilience supports to help them cope during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ashley Bass Mitchell, Margaret Soler, Sharon Glover and Tanisha Holder normally spend their work days collaborating with agencies and community resource partners to facilitate coordinated, community-based services for individuals, children and families who have mental health issues and other life challenges. The current public health crisis has brought new priorities into focus, however, and the four have taken on temporary additional responsibilities as crisis counselors for the Hope4NC Helpline.

Alliance’s participation in Hope4NC began following Hurricane Matthew in 2016, when North Carolina’s Department of Health and Human ServicesDivision of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities and Substance Abuse Services created the program to address the mental and behavioral health needs of those affected by the disaster. Alliance staff provided crisis counseling resources for Hope4NC again in 2018 following the catastrophic damage of Hurricane Florence.

The crisis counselors provide short-term interventions including coping strategies and emotional support to help people manage the stress of their situations, and may also refer callers to resources that provide further behavioral or mental healthcare assistance. In addition, they may direct people to food resources and other community supports to provide for basic needs in a time of financial insecurity.

“I have been able to direct a family to food resources so they were able to get enough food for the week,”said Johnston County SOC coordinator Tanisha Holder. She was also able to direct the mother to activities and resources to help keep her kids busy while she got other things done.

Durham County SOC Coordinator Ashley Bass Mitchell said that most of the resource requests she has received have been questions around stimulus checks, food insecurities and connecting to services. “Many people expressed that they were OK but appreciated a listening ear to express their frustrations,” she said.

Margaret Soler, the Wake County SOC Coordinator, collaborated with Cumberland County SOC Coordinator Sharon Glover to help a caller in Cumberland County who had eight children living in her home. “She said that she normally gets her diapers from a diaper bank, but that service had been suspended. I asked Sharon if she knew of another resource in Cumberland, and Sharon was able to track diapers down for her, and I think hand delivered them to her,” Soler said.

For some people, just having someone to call is all they need. “I have had a couple of people who have just wanted to talk to someone other than their family members about how they are feeling,” Soler said.

The Hope4NC Helpline can be reached at 1-855-587-3463. More information on Hope4NC and its companion program, Hope4Healers, can be found here.

Alliance Brand A

Supporting our Providers, Members and Communities During COVID-19

We know the stress, uncertainty and isolation that come with the “new normal” created by COVID-19 can lead people to experience new behavioral health issues and can compound existing ones. Working alongside NC DHHS and our strong and committed provider network with the guidance and flexibility our state partners have provided, Alliance has stepped up with over $10 million in additional support to help our members and our communities weather this storm.

The providers that make up our network are the front line healthcare professionals that ensure our members receive critical treatment and support, and their financial viability is of utmost concern. Through our Financial Sustainability Program, we have pumped over $7.2 million to about 100 of our larger outpatient providers and providers of community-based care, giving them the resources to quickly jump-start telehealth services so they can serve consumers virtually.

We’ve also implemented 15% rate increases for operators of intermediate care facilities (ICFs) for people with intellectual/developmental disabilities, and hikes ranging from 15-30% for all child residential providers during the COVID-19 emergency. And we’ve committed $300,000 in financial support to providers who offer solely research-based behavioral health treatment, as well as reimbursements for Assertive Community Treatment Team (ACTT) providers who purchase mobile phones to work with our members remotely. ACTT is a comprehensive treatment for adults with serious and persistent mental illness that includes a team of professionals working together to provide treatment and assistance to individuals in their homes or other community settings.

In response to the need for increased behavioral health capacity during this time, Alliance has invested $1.1 million to expand access to inpatient and residential treatment beds. We’ve also increased access to transitional residential treatment beds for individuals dealing with substance use disorders, and funded a 24-hour residential facility to provide social support and other non-medical services to people experiencing physical withdrawal from alcohol and other drugs.

Alliance has worked closely with our partners in county government to ensure shelter for people who need it desperately at this time. We’re funding hotel accommodations and critical wrap-around supports for a number of very high-risk members and established telehealth support for 225 members sheltering at a Durham County hotel. We’ve dedicated a team of peers, supported by a psychiatrist, to provide on-demand virtual peer support and daily peer support check-in to all individuals in a Wake County isolation shelter for members presumed to be COVID positive, and deployed two telehealth clinics at another Wake County shelter to provide onsite assessment, treatment and support. These efforts are critical to avoiding crisis escalation and the need to transport individuals to an ED or crisis facility.

As we’ve been there during floods in Cumberland County, a gas explosion and recent public housing crisis in Durham County, and other difficult times across our region, Alliance is committed to supporting our communities and the health and well-being of our members as long as it takes to overcome this COVID-19 emergency.

Alliance Staff Strive to Safeguard Homeless During Crisis

When the COVID-19 public health emergency prompted people in our communities to isolate in their homes, Alliance staff members went to work to safeguard the most vulnerable people: those who have no homes to shelter in.

Alliance Senior Vice President—Community Health and Well-Being Ann Oshel and her staff have been working with emergency management partners in the counties we serve to help create safe housing for people who need to be isolated. “The current public health emergency has brought into stark relief how important housing is in maintaining health,” she said.

Oshel said it was not readily apparent at first to emergency management officials that the most vulnerable population at risk of spreading the virus was the homeless population but that there are now homeless teams in the operation centers.

The plan to keep people experiencing homelessness safe and healthy is three-pronged, Oshel said.

The first prong is working with hospitals and county partners to create isolation sites for people experiencing homelessness who have tested positive, which includes people identified in hospitals, crisis facilities, shelters and people living in campsites.

Oshel and her staff have enlisted several hotels willing to house people, with Alliance footing the bill for those eligible for our services and the counties covering others. Medical partners such as Duke Health and Lincoln Community Health provide medical support.

The second prong is creating safe sites for people who possibly have the virus and are awaiting test results. “You can’t put them in the isolation sites, but they clearly can’t be in the shelters and on the streets,” Oshel said. These people are also housed in area hotels.

The third prong is finding safe destinations for people who would have otherwise been discharged into homelessness from crisis facilities and emergency departments. “This has involved creating an inventory of places outside of hotels that have inventory that we can call in a hurry when we have someone who needs to be housed,” Oshel said. She said her staff have worked alongside Alliance Care Coordination staff who have a lot of experience transitioning people from facilities to community living.

In addition, Oshel said the Alliance Independent Living Initiative has been expanded so that hospitals and health care providers can apply for assistance to speed up the process of transitioning people from facilities into supported housing. “The reality is that hospitals are anticipating such an influx of need for beds that we can’t just hold people for a couple of days while they figure it out,” Oshel said “People have to be discharged on the day that they are ready, so we have to have the resources and supports in place for them quickly.”

Oshel and her staff are accustomed to coordinating with community, government and law enforcement partners after events such as hurricanes, last year’s gas explosion in Durham and the recent crisis at Durham’s McDougald Terrace public housing development, but Oshel said this pandemic has taken our coordination and collaboration “to a whole new level,” highlighting the value of community partnerships.

“The COVID-19 response has been an important reminder that no entity can do anything by themselves. We have a role to play, hospitals have a role to play, emergency management has a role to play, but nobody can do this by themselves, it’s just too big, too fast moving and there are too many needs.”

Alliance Brand A

Alliance Supports its Provider Network

Since the start of the COVID-19 crisis Alliance has been working hard to help ensure that our network of providers is able to continue to provide access to services for individuals with behavioral health needs and to support members already in care. This includes collaborating closely with NC DHHS and our providers to greatly expand opportunities for using telehealth technology to interact with members in a safe way, and this week over $7 million dollars will be going out to select providers as part of Alliance’s provider Financial Stabilization Program.

We recognize the operational and financial impact the COVID-19 crisis is having on our network and the Financial Stabilization Program will provide significant immediate relief for many providers until they are able to begin seeking additional assistance from the federal government. This program will focus initially on providers of non-residential community-based services and outpatient services, based on a defined set of operational criteria.

While all members of our network are impacted by COVID-19, these providers are among the most seriously affected by the implementation of social distancing practices and other precautions to reduce the risk of disease spread. The immediate availability of these services will help prevent overcrowding in the EDs and prevent the unnecessary use of other crisis services and inpatient care, and they are critical to ensuring that individuals can transition out of those settings as expeditiously as possible.

As we navigate alongside our network during these unprecedented times, Alliance will continue to explore ways to support our partners on the front line of caring for our health plan members.

Alliance Board Meeting Going Virtual

Beginning on April 2, 2020, all Alliance Board meetings as well as Board Committee meetings will be held electronically only. You can join the meeting using Zoom or get more information on participating and/or making public comment.

Coronavirus Advice from NC DHHS

Along with DHHS, Alliance continues to closely monitor the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19). Here is advice from Secretary Mandy Cohen:

​As we learn more about the virus and its impacts, it is critical that we all stay calm, thoughtful and diligent in our response. There are some practical things we can all do to prevent the spread of any respiratory illness, such as cold or flu.

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds;
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick;
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth;
  • Stay home when you are sick;
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw it away;
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using regular household cleaning spray;

More information is available on the COVID-19 Section of the NCDHHS website.

Alliance Brand A

Mayor Recognizes Alliance at Durham State Of The City

Alliance Health staff with Steve Schewel

From left: Alliance SVP-Community Health and Well-Being Ann Oshel; Alliance Community Education Specialist Denene Hinton; Durham Mayor Steve Schewel; and Alliance CEO Rob Robinson.

Durham Mayor Steve Schewel recognized Alliance for our work assisting displaced McDougald terrace residents at his State Of The City address on March 2.

Alliance staff were regular visitors to 51B at McDougald Terrace to check in on and offer support to residents, and more than 50 Alliance staff volunteered on MLK Day to lead McDougald kids in recreational activities at local YMCAs and community centers.

Alliance also brought in physical healthcare partners from Duke Health and Lincoln Community Health Center to ensure that displaced residents could have all of their healthcare needs addressed. Never was this innovative partnership more obvious than when the City allowed Alliance and its partners use our “City Hall on the Go” RV to serve as a makeshift clinic, bringing physical and behavioral healthcare, pharmacy services, and linkage to ongoing care directly to where people could conveniently access it.

Alliance also organized a resource event at one of the hotels serving the most displaced residents that brought together multiple helping organizations in one place to ensure that people had easy access to many kinds of essential help.

Thank you to Ann Oshel and Denene Hinton for coordinating this effort and all of Alliance for your support in helping our communities.