Patient Finds 'Hope' as Clinic Combines Behavioral, Primary Care

The Willamette Family integrated care clinic helped Bud James Perry get his life back under control after 14 years of active alcoholism that left him homeless on the streets of Eugene.

As Bud tells it, he wasn't washing himself or his clothes and was barely eating any food. As soon as he woke up he started drinking until he passed out again.

That finally changed on August 18, 2014, when he moved into Buckley House to undergo detox in order to receive residential services at Carlton House. The houses are part of the integrated services offered by Willamette Family, a provider in the Trillium Coordinated Care Organization that serves Oregon Health Plan members in Lane County.

It was a long, hard road for Bud, who is also diabetic and had very high blood sugar and blood pressure. He hadn't been taking his insulin or blood pressure meds for at least two months, but with assistance from the team of primary care practitioners, mental health specialists, addiction therapists, peer counselors and more, he stabilized his condition. Bud says he now feels "blessed."

Trillium is one of several CCOs that received federal and state funding through the Oregon Health Authority's health system transformation to pay startup costs to integrate primary health care providers with those who treat behavioral health needs – mental illness and substance abuse disorders. Half of Trillium's eight innovation grants went to existing medical clinics that brought in behavioral care providers; the remaining four including Willamette Family, were behavioral health clinics that brought in primary care providers. (Trillium pays for ongoing expenses of this "integration incubator project" from other internal funding sources.)

Willamette Family's core services in downtown Eugene include primary care, behavioral care, a walk-in evaluation center, alcohol and drug treatment services, outpatient DUI services and peer support mental health services. They also have nurse practitioners who visit the men's and women's residential centers.

"The goal with the clinic is to treat their medical issues but also get them to a place where they want to treat their behavioral health issues, and we've been quite successful with that," says Colleen Smith, the senior program manager. "We want to provide seamless service with the least amount of barriers and have them be empowered in their own health care. That's the heart and spirit of what we're

doing, and having them feel like they're the most important person that just walked into the clinic."

Since officially opening in January 2015, the center has treated nearly 1,000 individuals for behavioral or urgent care needs, and diverted more than 300 from local emergency rooms, Smith says. Many of their walk-ins need detoxification service but aren't eligible for it unless they are "medically stable." Willamette Family's services help them get on track with the medications they need for diabetes, asthma and other common disorders, and deal with housing and transportation issues required for successful detox, Smith says.

"We have been instrumental in being able to quickly treat these people for their medical issues so that they can engage in the services they need right away," she says.

Bud, who says he was sober for 17 years before he started drinking again in 2000, says he was never treated so well even when he had a job and private insurance. He credits his primary care provider, nurse practitioner, Jin Park, with making the difference.

"I've never had a physician who has treated me with such respect," he says. "When I have questions she explains it to me in a way a lay person like me can understand.

"The biggest thing – and I really mean this – that I've acquired or been blessed with is hope," Bud says.

Colleen Smith says the experience of helping people like Bud has affected her, too.

"It has been an amazing and profound experience," she says. "We're getting to touch people in all aspects of their life and really truly make a difference in our community – we're able to treat the whole person."

This article is published courtesy of the Oregon Health Authority. 

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