Skip to main content

Natural Awakenings Metro Phoenix & Northern Arizona

Protecting Public Mental Health on an Epic Scale: The nonprofit Mercy Maricopa Integrated Care is the regional behavioral health authority for Maricopa County.

Aug 28, 2015 07:07AM ● By Mary K. Reinhart

The nonprofit Mercy Maricopa Integrated Care health system administers whole-health care for almost 20,000 people diagnosed with a serious mental illness (SMI) and 800,000 other adults, children and adolescents with general mental health and substance abuse issues, most of whom are Medicaid or Medicare-eligible. Mercy Maricopa also oversees the crisis system that serves 4 million Maricopa County residents.

Treating the whole person, mind and body, is absolutely the right thing to do. Research indicates:

  • People living with a SMI have higher rates of chronic medical conditions. Their life expectancies average 25 to 30 years less than the general population.
  • Treating physical and behavioral health separately leads to poorer health conditions, especially for people diagnosed with SMI.
  • People diagnosed with SMI often don’t or can’t find primary care, sometimes because of stigma. That leads them to be underdiagnosed and undertreated.
  • People diagnosed with SMI use crisis and hospital emergency rooms at a greater rate than the general population. That is costly, both health-wise and financially.
  • Routine health and wellness programs can and do improve health care. That includes screening for disease, monitoring health conditions, coordinating care, outreach and exercise.

"The health care system has been fragmented for far too long, treating mind and body separately," said Eddy D. Broadway, CEO of Mercy Maricopa. "Integrated care is a person-centered approach that makes sense for members, families and the entire system."

Mercy Maricopa is dedicated to providing people with the right care at the right time in the right place—unobstructed access to care for their behavioral and physical health needs. The focus is on treating the whole person and considering member goals, strengths and needs. Mercy Maricopa and its network of providers work to engage and inform members and their families so they can take charge of their own health and wellness, leading to better health and lower health care costs.

Mercy Maricopa and providers also work with first-responders to treat people in the community for physical and behavioral health issues to divert them from crisis facilities or hospital emergency rooms. Mercy Maricopa and providers that include Chicanos Por La Causa, Marc Community Resources, Community Bridges, Valley del Sol and eight behavioral-health clinics throughout the Valley also offer physical health and wellness programs.

The system is being redesigned to streamline administration, reduce the need for higher levels of care such as intervening earlier and other cost savings to address gaps in care; achieve better health outcomes through new and expanded targeted programs; and increase value-based purchasing.

An example of Mercy Maricopa’s integrated care approach includes the recent partnership with Assurance Health & Wellness Center (AssurancePhoenix.com), which opened a new integrated center August 1 in Phoenix at 1515 East Osborn Road. Assurance offers a full range of mental health treatment, substance abuse treatment and physical health care and wellness programs.

In its first year, Mercy Maricopa and its provider network launched physical and behavioral health integration programs and centers, exceeded expansion targets, navigated Medicaid expansion, completed a redesign and enhancement of the children’s system, extended contracts that will double the crisis system and initiated reforms that tie provider payment to health outcomes.

Mercy Maricopa also fostered the launch of the first medical specialty Assertive Community Treatment team with Partners in Recovery (PIR) and Trinity Adult Medicine. The PIR Arrowhead location was the first to be licensed as an integrated clinic for physical and behavioral health care. The team helps coordinate care for people with complex medical needs and serious mental illness. Goals include reducing hospitalization and contact with the criminal justice system, improving health outcomes, securing stable housing and employment and strengthening ties to the community.

Collaborating with a wide, community-based network of hundreds of behavioral and physical health-care providers, Mercy Maricopa delivers services to eligible members. A public, integrated, managed-care system of this scale is unique in the nation, and Mercy Maricopa’s innovative, collaborative approach, together with widespread provider and community support for this model, helps position Arizona to expand and build upon these initiatives and partnerships in the years ahead. Several more integrated health centers will be opening in the coming year.

Photo at Top: The Marc Community Resources team celebrates their win in the “Tournament of Champions” kickball game. Teams representing Valley behavioral health providers compete during the much-anticipated biannual event.

Second Photo:  Members of the Center for Health Empowerment Education Employment Recovery Services (CHEEERS) get experience working in the facility’s commercial kitchen, preparing them for work in the restaurant industry and learning food safety.

Mary K. Reinhart is communications and public relations administrator for Mercy Maricopa. For more information, visit MercyMaricopa.org.

Upcoming Events Near You