Berryhill director explains new programs to supervisors

Since he took over in December 2013, Executive Director Aaron McHone has worked to expand the services at the UnityPoint Berryhill Center.

McHone told the Webster County Supervisors Tuesday that his three goals are to provide more integrated services, provide better access to services, and to increase services to young people, so that Berryhill is providing for all age groups.

Berryhill is working on several new partnerships, including with the Trinity Regional Medical Center emergency room.

“We’re now providing psychiatric consults at the emergency department at Trinity, so that emergency physician who has someone with a mental health diagnosis can get a quick consult from a psychiatrist via telehealth,” McHone said. “That’s been very helpful.”

This also helps to determine whether or not a patient needs to be transferred, he said.

McHone said future partnerships are possible with Hope Haven and the Rabiner Treatment Center.

He said he has worked to dramatically decrease the wait time for new patients seeking help.

When McHone started, “I was told we were 68 days out for a new patient psychiatric evaluation,” he said. “Often times an individual takes six months to even pick up the phone and ask for help. So the last thing you want to do is tell them we’ll get to you in 2 1/2 months.”

By signing two telehealth contracts, and hiring a new psychiatrist, the wait was decreased from 68 days to three days.

His third goal is to better serve young people.

“As a community health center, Berryhill needs to serve all ages,” he said. “I feel we’re not doing enough for the youth in our community.”

At his previous job, about 40 percent of the patients were under age 18. At Berryhill, only 500 of the 3,000 patients are under age 18, he said. It’s important to meet people’s needs early on.

“I’ve looked at the statistics, and 100 percent of our clients used to be children,” McHone said.

Finally, McHone talked a bit about a new project for both Berryhill and the region.

“The state of Iowa has been moving away from targeted case management for mental health issues, to a new system called the integrated health home to ensure those folks needs are being taken care of,” he said. “We want to integrate substance abuse and other providers out there.”

People with persistent mental illness have a life expectancy of 25 to 30 years less than the general population, he said. This can be due to things like diabetes, not getting their proper medication and obesity caused by medication.

Instead of one case manager, the new system offers each patient a team, to make sure nobody falls through the cracks.