In a developing partnership, TidalHealth Peninsula Regional, Atlantic General Hospital (AGH), and several community partners are expanding behavioral health services on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. This partnership, called the Tri-County Behavioral Health Engagement (TRIBE), is set to open its primary crisis center at TidalHealth later this year. The center will ultimately operate as a 23-hour crisis response unit, servicing Wicomico, Worcester, and Somerset counties. TRIBE’s secondary location at AGH opened in January 2023.
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The TRIBE initiative is set to receive $11.3 million in funding from 2021-2026 from the Regional Partnership Catalyst Program under the Health Services Cost Review Commission.
“What we found is that there’s a population that needs services immediately that are either pre-crisis, so we can kind of head off the crisis, or just going into a crisis,” said AGH Director of Population Health Tina Simmons. “If we can stabilize them, we can hopefully prevent hospitalization.”
The TidalHealth crisis center will serve as the tri-county area’s primary site. However, TRIBE has already seen some success with its secondary site at AGH. About 150 patients have come through the site since it opened in January.
According to Simmons, the program helped fill a service gap for the counties’ pediatric population, which made up about 60% of the initial patients. Although the amount of pediatric patients has since leveled out, Simmons said they are still seeing a high level of adolescents.
By providing crisis counseling, medical stabilization, and medication prescriptions, TRIBE aims to reduce emergency department utilization in its service area by 20%. Other programmatic goals include accepting 100% of walk-in referrals and reducing in-patient behavioral health admissions by 10%.
Simmons said care coordination will be a key focus for TRIBE services.
“[Patients] will leave with a plan,” Simmons said. “Then our care coordinator follows up with them within 48 hours, until that handoff has occurred and they’ve been connected either to their next level of care, a permanent provider, or the community resource that we’re trying to like them to.”
This is where TRIBE’s 16 community partners step into the process. The program initially involved the three county health departments and Sante Mobile, a crisis response team. However, the project has since grown to include other behavioral health community resources, the public school system, and faith-based organizations in the tri-county area. With a variety of resources easily accessible, TRIBE aims to refer patients to providers that best fit their behavioral health needs.
Another tactic to aid care coordination is the use of the state’s health information exchange, CRISP. Each TRIBE patient has a Care Alert placed in CRISP, allowing their providers to access and update information about their treatment plan.
More is still in the works for both TRIBE sites, Simmons added. One of the project’s goals included receiving patient drop-offs from first responder services. However, regulatory barriers have put a hold on the drop-offs, to which Simmons said the hospitals are still having internal and external discussion with community partners.
TRIBE is also looking to increase telepsychiatry services, particularly if a patient presents behavioral health needs during a primary care visit. It also received funding from its local behavioral health authority for a peer recovery specialist position at its AGH location, set to begin in June.
This article was corrected on 4/29 to reflect a change in the TidalHealth Crisis Center opening date.