KCON receives grant to integrate behavioral health, primary care services for vulnerable populations

Reflections staff members Crystal Cunningham, left, and Roslyn Shackelford stand in the clinic by sign that reads GVSU Family Health Center.
Reflections staff members Crystal Cunningham, left, and Roslyn Shackelford stand in the clinic operated by the GVSU Family Health Center. A grant from the Michigan Health Endowment Fund will enable KCON to offer integrated behavioral health and primary care to residents at Reflections, Mount Mercy and to patients at GVSU Family Health Center, on Sheldon Street.
Image credit - courtesy photo

Grand Valley's Kirkhof College of Nursing (KCON) received a $500,000 grant from the Michigan Health Endowment Fund to offer a unique model of integrated behavioral health and primary care to a vulnerable population in Grand Rapids.

The two-year grant establishes Project Thrive and offers fully integrated services at the GVSU Family Health Center, which is operated by KCON in the city's Heartside District, and at two housing complexes (Mount Mercy and Reflections) that serve adults with limited incomes. Through a partnership with the Grand Rapids Housing Commission (GRHC) and Dwelling Place, respectively, KCON has operated satellite clinics at these sites since 2018.

Della Hughes Carter, assistant professor of nursing and principle investigator for the grant, said the project will address the critical gap in underserved adults receiving behavioral health services. She said integrating behavioral health care services with primary care provides the most comprehensive approach to a person’s wellness.

“The people we serve do not have access to behavioral health or even primary health for many reasons, including the lack of transportation or technology for telehealth visits," Hughes Carter said. "This grant offers an opportunity to improve the social determinants of health for many.”

The grant will support the hiring of a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner, nurse case manager and two part-time peer support advocates who will blend their services with the primary care team for a fully integrated approach to wellness.

Cynthia McCurren, dean and professor of KCON, said faculty and staff members at KCON are well-suited to facilitate Project Thrive. KCON has operated the nurse-managed GVSU Family Health Center for 20 years, serving a vulnerable population and then expanding primary care services to senior citizens who live at Mount Mercy and Reflections, with support from another Michigan Health Endowment Fund grant.

Reflections is a senior housing community with 60 units managed by Dwelling Place in southeast Grand Rapids; Mount Mercy Apartments is a 180-unit building on Grand Rapids' northwest side managed by the GRHC.

McCurren said Project Thrive also provides excellent, high-impact learning opportunities for nursing and health professions students who will then bring knowledge of the critical importance of integrated, team-based care and care coordination into the workforce.

"This project aligns with our mission. Students will work with providers and deliver patient-centered, integrated care," McCurren said. "There is a shortage of behavioral health providers and our students will have the opportunity to learn more about this integration of services early in their academic journey."

When Project Thrive begins in January, telehealth and in-person services will be available to patients. 


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