County Launches Nation’s First Mental Health “Pay for Success” Project

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Partners in Wellness” will provide community-based mental health services for individuals with serious mental illness

 SANTA CLARA COUNTY, CALIF. – The County of Santa Clara is launching the nation’s first mental health-focused Pay for Success project in partnership with Telecare Corporation, a national leader in providing innovative, effective services to individuals with serious mental illness. The project, called “Partners in Wellness,” will provide community-based mental health services to approximately 250 severely mentally ill county residents, with the goal of measurably improving their wellbeing and quality of life while reducing their reliance on less effective and costlier services, including the County’s psychiatric emergency room and other inpatient psychiatric care settings.

The Partners in Wellness project will enable the County to provide improved services to community members suffering from mental illness, and tie payment of taxpayer dollars to the delivery of excellent results,” said President Dave Cortese, County of Santa Clara Board of Supervisors.  

In Santa Clara County, a small subset of severely mentally ill residents frequently cycles in and out of the County’s psychiatric emergency room and inpatient facility.  These individuals are also at risk for homelessness, incarceration, and extended psychiatric hospitalizations. Through Partners in Wellness, the County hopes to implement a proactive model of care that identifies these individuals and provides them with more effective treatment in a community-based setting.  Through this project, the County also hopes to improve patient flow through its emergency and inpatient psychiatric facilities, creating savings and efficiencies in the County’s health system. 

The model we’re using for Partners in Wellness is powerful. People get very high-intensity mental health services, but also, and more importantly, they get help with the other critical health and life needs that can really break the cycle of repeated hospitalizations and get people on a path to recovery,” said Anne Bakar, Telecare’s President and CEO. “We’re excited to be working with Santa Clara County on this extraordinary effort, not only to improve the lives of the people we’re serving, but to create new funding approaches that can transform care.” 

Telecare will provide recovery-centered, community-based mental health and housing services that are specifically designed to serve people with extremely complex needs. Partners in Wellness concentrates heavily on care coordination to help people access and best utilize the resources they need, especially primary care and other community supports.  Treatment is highly personalized and grounded in evidence-based practice. Services will also include 24/7 access to support, comprehensive health and wellness screenings, substance use education and treatment, and practical assistance with vital life needs including symptom management, finding housing, linking to financial benefits, and more. The program will strive to tap into the personal hopes and goals of the individuals served, as a primary source of motivation to make healthy and positive change. 

The County selected Telecare Corporation, one of the Bay Area’s largest and most effective providers of intensive mental health treatment services, as the service provider for this innovative project,” said Toni Tullys, the County’s Behavioral Health Services Director. “We are confident that Telecare’s intensive mental health treatment services and comprehensive support for its clients will make it possible for clients to stabilize and to live successfully in the community.”   

Pay for Success is a performance-oriented contracting model that ties a government entity’s payments for services to high-need populations to the achievement of demonstrably successful results. In Pay for Success programs, the effectiveness of services is tracked over time and, unlike traditional government contracting, service providers receive full payment only if the project has achieved successful outcomes for the individuals it is serving.  

For this project, Dr. Keith Humphreys, Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Stanford Medical School, will conduct an independent evaluation to rigorously measure whether Telecare’s provision of supportive, community-based mental health services significantly improves participants’ health and wellbeing, while decreasing their use of costly County services. 

Partners in Wellness is the County’s second Pay for Success project, developed in partnership with Third Sector Capital Partners, Inc., a nonprofit organization dedicated to accelerating America’s transition to a performance-driven social sector. The County’s first project, Project Welcome Home, focused on providing permanent supportive housing and associated services to chronically homeless residents.  That project launched in July 2015, and was the first Pay for Success project in California. 

With this project and our prior Pay for Success project, the County is better defining our objectives in serving vulnerable populations, and is creating incentives that ensure service providers achieve those objectives,” said Chief Assistant County Counsel Greta Hansen.  “Through the evaluations of each program, we will have a much better understanding of how to further increase the impact of these and other programs going forward.”