NYC Health + Hospitals Unveils 3-Year Plan to Expand Behavioral Health Services

June 7, 2024
Health system, which provides approximately 60% of behavioral health services in New York City, seeks to increase the volume of outpatients served by at least 10%

NYC Health + Hospitals, the largest provider of behavioral health in New York City, has developed a three-year plan to strengthen and expand its behavioral health services.

Over 76,000 patients each year rely on NYC Health + Hospitals behavioral health services. With nearly 5,000 behavioral health staff members across 11 hospitals and over 30 community health care centers, the system provides approximately 60% of behavioral health services in New York City.

 The effort is funded in part with $41 million through the Behavioral Health Centers of Excellence, a New York State investment to rebuild, develop, and enhance core acute and outpatient behavioral health services, targeting high-risk individuals enrolled in New York State Medicaid Managed Care. Additional funding includes Opioid Settlement Funding as well as City, State, Federal, and philanthropic funds.

The health system has identified six core strategies for the three-year period between 2024 and 2026 that will guide its efforts to restore and maximize inpatient capacity; expand access to outpatient services; increase services for special populations; enhance social work, care management, and peer services; prevent violence and increase safety; and build the behavioral health workforce.

“As demand for our services grows, our system is also confronting significant challenges, including an aging infrastructure and a nationwide healthcare workforce shortage,” said NYC Health + Hospitals Deputy Chief Medical Officer and System Chief of Behavioral Health Omar Fattal, M.D., M.P.H., in a statement. “Yet just like the city we serve, we don’t turn away in the face of challenges; we accelerate our work and deepen our resolve. We are doubling down on our commitment to deliver exceptional behavioral health services across the care continuum.”

In January 2024, NYC Health + Hospitals met its goal of restoring all psychiatric beds that were closed for essential facility enhancements and to accommodate medical needs during the pandemic, reaching nearly 1,000 beds that are staffed and ready to accept patients. The organization said it would continue renovating behavioral health inpatient units as well as optimize outpatient workflows to ensure a more efficient utilization of mental health professionals’ time and overall process.

Another goal is to increase the volume of outpatients served by at least 10%.

Special populations – including individuals with co-occurring substance use disorders, intellectual or developmental disabilities; people experiencing homelessness; and children and adolescents – often require targeted interventions to address their cross-cutting psychiatric and social needs.

NYC Health + Hospitals is planning a new systemwide comprehensive substance use training program to ensure that patients in all disciplines get assessment and treatment for substance use disorder, funded through the Opioid Settlement Fund.

The organization also is establishing 16 school-based mental health clinics to provide additional services in schools across the city and provide connections to existing outpatient services.
In addition, it is opening an Extended Care Unit at NYC Health + Hospitals/Elmhurst to connect complex-need psychiatric patients with additional treatment and housing, the third such unit systemwide.

NYC Health + Hospitals will expand its care management workforce with an emphasis on supporting the social determinants of health, including food and housing insecurity, and deepening their training focused on behavioral health. It will introduce a Social Work Training Academy to standardize training across the social work discipline at NYC Health + Hospitals for all 1,000 social workers, strengthening practice and patient outcomes.

The health system said it will continue building a culture of safety and train staff in key areas such as screening and assessment of high-risk patients, de-escalation techniques, trauma-informed approaches, and violence prevention.

In light of a nationwide shortage of behavioral health staff, NYC Health + Hospitals will invest in programs to recruit, train and retain the staff critical to the operations of New York City’s largest behavioral health provider. Plans include loan repayment for behavioral health providers and staff in exchange for a commitment to serve the health system for three years, as well as introducing telepsychiatry in psychiatric emergency and inpatient settings to mitigate critical workforce capacity issues, decrease wait time, and rapidly stabilize patients.

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