The health care industry is undergoing massive change, with a focus on reduced cost, improved health outcomes and enhanced customer experience. Although we all agree on the goals, it does not mean this change is easy. The members of the community that rely on Gulf Coast Center for services know this all too well. We’ve worked to ease some of this change and move our center forward to improve services throughout Galveston and Brazoria counties.

One example is the 1115 Transformation Waiver, a federal program that provided new funding to launch and test innovative ways to improve quality of care and reduce the overall cost of services for taxpayers.

We launched several new 1115 Waiver projects, ranging from youth crisis response teams to integrated health care clinics, and estimate that more 6,800 people received services through 2016 from Gulf Coast Center that may not have without this funding.

We also knew, however, that the purpose of this special funding was to test new and innovative approaches to see what worked and that to continue, projects would have to demonstrate results on key metrics, including quality of care and cost.

We have already begun integrating many of these projects into our regular service system. In other words, they won’t be “special projects” anymore. They’ll simply be absorbed into the way we work. For example, the youth crisis response team pilot was successfully integrated into all of our child and adolescent behavioral health clinics.

One of the 1115 Waiver projects, however, has proved too expensive to absorb fully into our regular services. Since it opened, the Galveston Ambulatory Detox Clinic served approximately 500 people, or about 180 people per year. We know that for the persons served, the services provided at this clinic were helpful. For some they were lifesaving, but they were also expensive. It required seven staff and rent for a stand-alone operation. And because most of the people served there were not insured, there will be no way to pay for these services when this special funding ends. In short, the detox model we tested can’t be sustained with the funding sources available to Gulf Coast Center.

Our staff is already working with individuals receiving services at the clinic to continue their care after the clinic closes. We are also working to expand other services so people can get the help they need. For example, we will increase the availability of individual and group intensive outpatient services and add staff to enhance Co-Occurring Psychiatric and Substance Use Disorder services. These are two examples of a multipronged approach to create a stronger, more intensive level of outpatient recovery services in our community.

The 1115 Waiver allowed us new opportunities to expand services for our community and try new and innovative approaches we would not have been able to launch on our own. We stand committed to our substance use disorder services and look forward to providing Galveston and Brazoria counties’ residents the care they need and deserve.

Melissa Tucker is CEO of the Gulf Coast Center.

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