03/27/07 — Eastpointe board eyes new plans for services

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Eastpointe board eyes new plans for services

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on March 27, 2007 2:04 PM

Eastpointe's board of directors will outline the mental health cooperative's goals for future patient care when members vote on a proposed three-year strategic plan tonight.

The state Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities and Substance Abuse Services is requiring regional mental health service providers to have an approved plan by the end of the month.

Eastpointe manages care for patients in Wayne, Duplin, Lenoir and Sampson counties who need help with mental health, developmental disabilities or addiction.

The board will vote on that plan at 6 p.m. in the Murphy Center at Mount Olive College.

Some of the policy changes in the state mental health system have resulted in more patients showing up at local emergency rooms and jails, officials have said. Officials at both the state and local levels have said they intend to shore up the system to prevent such problems.

Eastpointe Director Ken Jones said private providers should have a plan in place for their clients in crisis. Some providers have thorough plans, but others have a plan that consists of "calling Eastpointe," he said.

The proposed plan developed by Eastpointe officials is designed to address concerns that surfaced during meetings with "stakeholders" in the system -- people in treatment and families of people in treatment, as well as agencies that deal with them during crises.

Jones said the most important part of the plan deals with a common complaint: People are unsure how to access the mental health system. When a crisis arises, they are not sure where to turn.

The clients used to be able to go straight to the Mental Health Department. Currently, Eastpointe has to set them up with a private provider. And for the client who doesn't have Medicaid or insurance, Eastpointe pays the bill.

The creators of the strategic plan say that if the board and, eventually the state, approve it Eastpointe would become a management company aimed at providing easier access to care.

As a result, fewer clients would wind up at local hospitals and mental health care providers would be more involved with their patients, becoming the first responders in a crisis and helping a patient make the transition back to a normal life when treatment has succeeded.

In addition, more drug addicts would get preventive care, more clients would be served at homes, instead of a facility; and providers would be able to communicate more freely with Eastpointe about what level of care a patient needs and would be better prepared for clients to shift to a less intensive level of care at the appropriate time.

Children who need intensive care would have an alternative to traveling long distances to residential facilities and the state would hold private providers more accountable, with annual monitoring that would include a thorough review of paperwork and services being provided.