Community Care Behavioral Health Organization Project Assists Recovery-Oriented Peer Support Programs

PITTSBURGH (January 22, 2007) -Community Care, a non-profit behavioral health managed care company with headquarters in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, believes in recovery. In addition to funding non-traditional services and hosting multiple recovery conferences, the managed care company recently completed a three-year initiative to encourage the effective use of peers in community-based agencies that assist individuals dealing with substance use disorders. The Peer Support Advancement Project, created to further the development of four grassroots organizations offering peer support to people early in recovery from addiction disorders, as well as people active in addiction, has made a difference.

Through the Peer Support Advancement Project, Community Care, in collaboration with the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center's Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic (WPIC), and the Institute for Research, Education and Treatment of Addiction (IRETA) has assisted four grassroots community agencies in improving outcomes tied to the delivery of non-traditional peer services. Participation in this project was based upon the belief that the use of peers improves the rates at which people stay in treatment, provides extra support, and improves life outcomes, such as finding stable housing and employment. The Pittsburgh Foundation funded the three-year initiative and was instrumental in the creation of the project concept.

James Gavin, President of Community Care, reflects that “Community Care's participation in this project evolved from the recognition that in order for recovery services and supports to thrive, agencies, even those with grassroots origins, must demonstrate that desired outcomes are being achieved.” Unfortunately, many of the agencies that are engaging peers as staff are not equipped with the expertise and infrastructure to develop an effective performance management system. Therefore, to support the recovery movement, Community Care made a commitment to offer emerging grassroots agencies assistance in effectively demonstrating their value.

The four agencies involved in the project include the Center for Spirituality in Twelve-Step Recovery, East Liberty Family Health Care Center, the Pennsylvania Organization for Women in Early Recovery and Central Outreach. All of these organizations are located in the Pittsburgh area, have unique missions, and offer non-traditional services to persons in treatment for substance use disorders, including many who have co-existing psychiatric disorders. The services provided are not usually available through traditional addiction treatment programs, but are examples of services expected to be essential in a transformed system.

The purpose of the Peer Support Advancement Project was to develop skills within the participating agencies that enable them to clearly delineate the core components of the services provided and establish strategies to measure and improve performance. Education and training were the vehicles for achieving the goal, with special attention given to the areas of co-occurring disorders and effective engagement strategies. In addition, assistance was provided to the agencies in the development and implementation of outcomes projects that could be accomplished with a minimum burden to staff.

Although each agency is unique, the project was successful in helping to document the mission and services provided by each. It was essential that these descriptions reflect the value of the life experiences that peer staff offer and of the approach that gives individuals as much time as needed to build the trusting relationship and be of help. Training formats and time frames appropriate for the work of the agencies were determined and training programs were delivered by area experts.

Project consultants worked with the agencies to select measures to track outcomes, provided education in relevant outcomes processes, and helped develop simplified outcome forms for data gathering. Community Care worked with other members of the project team to create a methodology for assessing current rates of entry, engagement and retention in treatment using claims data. In addition to establishing baseline results, a work group was created to discuss strategies to evaluate and/or improve performance.

This outreach has resulted in increased knowledge and skills related to strategies for improving treatment engagement and retention. It is clear that the agencies are committed to determining the impact of their services and have begun to implement outcomes projects unique to their mission.

The Center for Spirituality in 12-Step Recovery project provides a good example of the effectiveness of this outcomes outreach initiative. In the Center's project, changes in Alcohol Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) involvement from baseline through follow-up were documented, in addition to changes in substance use and life functioning. Outcomes data collected for 50 members provide evidence of the effectiveness of the intervention. Specifically, for those who completed services, substance use decreased by 96%. In addition, the percentage of members not attending any AA or NA meetings decreased from 40% at base-line to 7.5% at 30-day follow-up and discharge.

While all four agencies have selected an outcomes project, availability of claims data, limited staff resources and staff turnover have impacted their ability to move forward as quickly as originally anticipated. However data is now being collected and technical support will be provided as necessary to ensure that each organization can complete their project.

Transformation to a recovery model of behavioral health services and supports requires that each part of the delivery system take responsibility and play a role. Community Care is committed to supporting this change and will continue to educate others, heighten accountability and support those programs and services which promote the recovery model of care.

About Community Care:

Community Care, a provider-owned, federally tax-exempt non-profit behavioral health managed care organization headquartered in Pittsburgh, manages behavioral health benefits for members throughout Pennsylvania whose health insurance is sponsored through Medicaid and UPMC Health Plan's Medicare and commercial plans. Community Care is part of the Insurance Services Division of the UPMC, a $6 billion integrated worldwide health system. The flagship company of the Insurance Division, UPMC Health Plan, has pioneered innovative approaches for more effectively managing service delivery. Community Care is uniquely positioned to take advantage of the Health Plan’s expertise in this arena to support continued integration of physical and behavioral health services.

Community Care was founded in 1996 with a mission to provide accessible, high-quality, cost-effective, culturally sensitive behavioral health care. Community Care has been awarded “full” accreditation (the highest level possible) for its commercial product from NCQA.

About the Pittsburgh Foundation:

The Pittsburgh Foundation is the 14th largest community foundation in the country. Since 1945, it has worked to improve the quality of life in the Pittsburgh region by evaluating and addressing community issues, promoting charitable giving, and connecting donors to the critical needs of the community. Many generous individuals have invested in their community by establishing over 1,000 funds at the Foundation, benefiting a wide variety of nonprofit organizations and community needs.

Through donor designated funds, donors may give to the organization of their choice. Unrestricted grants at The Pittsburgh Foundation are awarded in five targeted areas for impact: Achieving Educational Excellence and Equity; Fostering Economic Development; Supporting Families, Children and Youth; Reducing Disparities in Health Outcomes; and Advancing the Arts.


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