Citizen Advocates, St. Joseph’s team up for research

Initiative focuses on enhancing behavioral health services in rural areas

MALONE — Citizen Advocates and St. Joseph’s Addiction Treatment and Recovery Centers have teamed up to conduct research focusing on the challenges faced by rural behavioral health providers and the individuals they serve.

Rural behavioral health providers serve a population of individuals and families that is uniquely vulnerable, and which often face hurdles connecting the people they support with the appropriate level of care or services. In many cases, the services some individuals and families require extend beyond a clinic or medical setting. Access to housing, reliable transportation, job training or food security can be obstacles for someone recovering from an addiction or mental health diagnosis. These challenges are more pronounced in areas like the North Country.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is the nation’s largest philanthropy dedicated solely to health and whose guiding thoughts include the principal, “We seek bold and lasting change rooted in the best available evidence, analysis, and science, openly debated. In 2017 alone, the Foundation dedicated over $365 million to improve health care.”

“Both of our organizations have deep ties in and a shared commitment to improving the lives of North Country residents,” said Reid Anthony, CEO of Citizen Advocates. “As such, both Citizen Advocates and St. Joseph’s are an ideal fit to work hand in glove on this important research that focuses on the steps we can take to improve behavioral health services and outcomes in rural areas.”

St. Joseph’s CEO Bob Ross adds, “While gaining access to quality behavioral healthcare has traditionally been hampered by geographic distance and limited resources in our rural North Country, the significant increase in demand for addiction and mental health treatment resulting from the unabating heroin and opioid epidemic provides an urgency for a new approach to providing care. We are confident that our collaboration with Citizen Advocates, and partnerships with Syracuse University and SUNY Albany will help to develop a more effective and efficient treatment model for our region’s individuals and families in need of care.”

In the first phase of this three-year program, the research team, coordinated by St. Joseph’s Malone Outpatient Site Supervisor Deceil Moore will meet with individuals to gather data regarding the experience and practical needs in seeking out behavioral health services. In addition, the team will interview leaders and front-line providers to get a true sense of how they are adapting to healthcare reforms. Organizations will also be asked to identify meaningful data that demonstrates quality of care for those they support.

Phase two of the project is putting the research into action by setting measurable goals to show outcomes in care are improving, and there is greater collaboration among organizations focused on improving overall community health. This means providers are partnering to deliver clinical services, and also meet other critical needs like transportation, job training or housing that are essential for someone recovering from a mental health or addiction diagnosis.

At the conclusion of the study, the team will connect with health, behavioral health and social service organization leaders in rural areas of New York to share best practices. In addition, the results will be shared with county and state government officials to inform policy decisions, and those focused on further research around health reform.


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