A First In American Psychiatry

September 09, 1998

University Of Kentucky Chandler Medical Center And Charter Ridge Announce Joint Venture

LEXINGTON, KY--The University of Kentucky Chandler Medical Center and Charter Ridge Behavioral Health System today announced the creation of one of the largest integrated behavioral health delivery systems in Kentucky. The partnership will consolidate the resources of three entities -- the UK College of Medicine's department of psychiatry, University of Kentucky Hospital and Charter Ridge - into one organization known as Behavioral Healthcare Alliance.

Verner Stillner, M.D., M.P.H., chair of UK's department of psychiatry, said this is the first time in American psychiatry that a proprietary system (Charter), a non-profit system (UK Hospital), and an academic department of psychiatry have been brought together.

"This venture will benefit from the long established relationship between the UK department of psychiatry and Charter Ridge," said Ali Elhaj, chief executive officer, Charter Ridge Behavioral Health System and Behavioral Healthcare Alliance. "The venture will create an efficient organization capable of providing consumers with the most appropriate level of care."

The partnership developed out of a 16-year affiliation between the UK department of psychiatry and Charter Ridge, an affiliate of Charter Behavioral Health System, a for-profit corporation that provides both inpatient and outpatient behavioral health services at facilities throughout the nation, including Lexington.

"The affiliation has been a model of clinical cooperation between two traditionally competing factions," Stillner said. "We anticipate this new system will be easier for patients to access quickly and enable them to have more specialized care."

With the advent of managed care, there is a need for a more consolidated, comprehensive system of service delivery, Stillner said.

The new alliance will ensure patients are referred to the facility where they would receive the most appropriate care. Patients throughout the Commonwealth can access the new system 24 hours a day.

Behavioral Healthcare Alliance will administer a variety of services including inpatient care, partial hospitalization and outpatient programs.

"Increasingly, mental health services are being delivered outside the hospital," Stillner said. "The new venture is designed to provide a seamless system of care between specialized hospital care and the more commonly-used outpatient care."

Charter Ridge Behavioral Health Systems will manage the alliance. The partnership will benefit from Charter's experience in providing behavioral health services and honed systems of marketing, management, assessment, triage, and treatment.

"Charter Ridge Behavioral Health System, as an important part of the nation's largest and most successful behavioral health corporation, will bring to this partnership the technical and systems support necessary to consistently monitor how care is being accessed and utilized," Elhaj said. "We also will have the ability to develop new services that have been field tested nationally and may serve as successful new models in the attempt to adapt to changing health care consumer needs in Central and Eastern Kentucky."

Plans call for a dedicated inpatient sub-specialty unit at UK Hospital, specifically for geriatric patients who need psychiatric and non-geriatric care. "We believe that hospitalization of a geriatric patient for psychiatric care is best accomplished in a medical-surgical hospital because of the need for diagnostic and specialty services that cannot be provided in a psychiatric hospital," Stillner said.

The geropsychiatric inpatient program will be able to draw on the resources of the gerontology division of UK's department of internal medicine and UK Sanders-Brown Center on Aging, nationally known for its research in geriatrics. Patients with medical and psychiatric problems also could be managed in this hospital-based unit. For example, a geriatric patient may be admitted to the hospital for diabetes treatment and physicians could discover the patient is suffering from depression as well.

Plans also include expanding satellite activities beyond Lexington, especially through the use of telemedicine. For example, the inpatient geriatric program could be linked with a nursing home through telemedicine. Child psychiatry also could be extended in Eastern Kentucky.

Consolidating and integrating services through this venture also will yield a system better designed for the Medicaid population in Region V. A behavioral health managed care plan for the region is expected to be operational this year.

"Behavioral Healthcare Alliance will provide us with more opportunities for training UK mental health professionals," Stillner said . "They will gain experience in a behavioral health system geared to delivery of care in a managed care environment."

University of Kentucky Medical Center
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