Unity, Centerstone bring primary care and behavioral health together

Unity, Centerstone bring primary care and behavioral health together

Collaborations between primary care and behavioral health providers are not new but the leaders of two such organizations believe their newly formed joint venture is a winning formula.

Unity Physician Partners, a primary care services provider based in Tennessee, and Centerstone, a nonprofit, community-based behavioral health provider with facilities in Tennessee and Indiana, are beginning their joint venture by establishing Unity primary care offices at four Centerstone locations in Tennessee and two in Indiana by the third quarter of 2013.

The plan thereafter is to open integrated care locations in Tennessee and Indiana every six months at existing and new sites in these states. Eventually, Unity and Centerstone intend on opening integrated clinics in other states.

Financial terms were not disclosed.

“There are many reasons why everybody’s not doing this. There are a lot of reasons why some pilots are working and some aren’t,” said David Guth, Jr., Centerstone’s CEO. “This is complicated.”

What Unity and Centerstone have going for them, Guth said, is alignment.

“Not every primary care physician is going to be a good fit for this. Not every psychiatrist or behavioral health practitioner is going to be a good fit for this,” he said. “It’s about pulling together a group of people that really understand the need and have bought into a common model.”

Guth and Michael Bailey, Unity’s chairman and CEO, think their teams have that alignment. Their clinical teams have been working together for months to shape their integration model and leadership has been working with payers to put in place a financial model that aligns all stakeholders’ incentives.

Leadership has decided in advance how payment will be divided said Bailey. Payment from payers will come in a bundled payment form, with bonus incentives tied to it. “We’re trying to give an answer to the patient and an answer to the cost within the healthcare system at the same time and bring all that together,” he said.

It appears that Centerstone and Unity are focusing on all the important components of successful integrated models, said Danna Mauch, PhD, principal associate and scientist at Abt Associates, a global research firm.

Mauch said components of successful integrated models include alignment of leadership and staff around the common goal of providing integrated care; co-location of primary and behavioral health services; understanding the health conditions of the population being served and designing and adopting evidence-based practices to meet the needs of the population; financial alignment; and measuring and reporting outcomes.