Service Gap Filled for Individuals with Co-Occurring Substance Use and Mental Health Disorders

The “Partnership in Recovery” is awarded SAMHSA grant to integrate primary health care into substance abuse services.


On August 13th the “Partnership in Recovery” (Partnership) established by Care Plus NJ, Inc. (CarePlus) and Turning Point, Inc. (Turning Point) was awarded the Primary and Behavioral Health Care Integration (PBHCI) grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) for the purpose of establishing primary care coordination for individuals with serious mental illness and co-occurring substance use disorder.

CarePlus was a grantee for the PBHCI program when SAMHSA first offered the competitive opportunity in 2009, which has led to CarePlus recently being designated as the first Behavioral Health Home in New Jersey. Through this experience, the organization has gained insight and established strong connections with local primary care providers, specialty practices, and community partners.

“We saw great success with our first PBHCI grant program,” remarked Joe Masciandaro, CEO at CarePlus. “As we established this Partnership, we knew that we wanted to head in this direction to benefit Turning Point clients through the integration of primary care into their treatment.”

When applying for PBHCI the second time around, CarePlus proposed a new project at a different location, which would expand the reach of care coordination to those who struggle with substance abuse, and strengthen the Partnership with Turning Point. The project is scheduled to begin on September 30th, 2015.

The Partnership, officially launched in March of 2015, consists of a compilation of “Turning Point at CarePlus” programs created to serve adolescents and adults who face issues involving substance use and mental health. The Partnership allows for both organizations to benefit from complementary expertise.

“Many of our clients experience a dangerous gap in services, especially when it comes to physical health needs,” stated Chris Barton, Acting CEO at Turning Point. “We are excited because this project is an expansion on our already solidified partnership with CarePlus.”

The goal of the grant-funded program is to better serve adults with co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders, typically those who use heroin or other opiates. These same individuals often abuse alcohol and use tobacco regularly, which can exacerbate physical health problems.

A majority of these individuals have little or no income and face a number of barriers when seeking care. Some of the issues include transportation, insurance coverage, stigma, and navigating the health care system. These challenges, and lack of primary care treatment, often result in a delayed or absent diagnosis, costly hospitalization, and premature mortality.

“The ability to receive primary health care in an integrated setting will be a great resource for Turning Point clients,” Barton added. “Providing this care coordination is bound to reduce frustrations and increase positive outcomes for these individuals.”

To fill this gap in service, the Partnership will work to establish coordinated primary and specialty care services on-site at Turning Point, with a treatment team that will act as a “health home” that also provides linkage to wraparound services. The treatment team will model the “Health Management Solutions” team established at CarePlus, which is working to expand the reach of Behavioral Health Home services so that more individuals can benefit from primary and behavioral care coordination.

“The implementation of the Health Management Solutions team at CarePlus is an important project,” Masciandaro explained. “We are optimistic that our efforts will result in improved health and an enhanced experience of care for those that we serve. We are also confident that this model will help to reduce the overall cost of treatment and services for our clients.”

Turning Point headquarters is currently located at the former Barnert Hospital, in which many offices are occupied by specialty practices. The vision is to establish relationships with these organizations so that clients will have access to these services “on-site”.

Individuals will engage in the coordinated care through the Sub-Acute Detoxification and Short Term Residential Treatment Programs at Turning Point, which will act as a gateway into the outpatient continuum of care. Until the space at Turning Point is licensed, the existing clinic at CarePlus in Paramus will be used for primary care.

The grant is projected to be a four-year process, during which $400,000 will be awarded per year. Continuation of the funding will be dependent on availability and satisfactory progress.