GVSU receives grant to integrate behavioral health, primary care for vulnerable populations

GRAND RAPIDS, MI — Grand Valley State University’s Kirkhof College of Nursing (KCON) received a $500,000 grant to offer a unique model of behavioral health and primary care to low-income Grand Rapids residents, officials say.

The two-year grant from the Michigan Health Endowment Fund establishes Project Thrive and offers fully integrated services at the GVSU Family Health Center, operated by KCON, and at two housing complexes.

Those complexes dedicated to adults with limited incomes are Mount Mercy Apartments and Reflections. Since 2018, KCON has operated satellite clinics at these locations through a partnership with the Grand Rapids Housing Commission (GRHC) and Dwelling Place.

Beginning January 2021, the project will address the gap in receiving behavioral health services for underserved adults, according to a Tuesday, Sept. 29 press release.

Integrating behavioral health care services with primary care provides the most comprehensive approach to a person’s wellness, according to Della Hughes Carter, assistant professor of nursing and principle investigator for the grant.

“The people we serve do not have access to behavioral health or even primary health for many reasons, including the lack of transportation or technology for telehealth visits,” Carter said. “This grant offers an opportunity to improve the social determinants of health for many.”

The grant will support the hiring of a mental health nurse practitioner, nurse case manager and two part-time peer support advocates who will blend their services with the primary care team for a fully integrated approach to wellness.

Cynthia McCurren, dean and professor of KCON, said their faculty and staff members are well-suited to facilitate Project Thrive.

KCON has operated the nurse-managed the university’s Family Health Center for 20 years, serving a vulnerable population, later expanding primary care services to senior citizens who live in the aforementioned housing complexes.

Reflections is a 60-unit senior housing community managed by Dwelling Place in Grand Rapids. Mount Mercy Apartments is a 180-unit building managed by the GRHC.

Project Thrive also provides excellent, high-impact learning opportunities for nursing and health professions students who will then bring knowledge of the critical importance of integrated, team-based care and care coordination into the workforce, said McCurren.

“This project aligns with our mission. Students will work with providers and deliver patient-centered, integrated care,” McCurren said.

“There is a shortage of behavioral health providers and our students will have the opportunity to learn more about this integration of services early in their academic journey.”

When Project Thrive begins next year, telehealth and in-person services will be available to patients.

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