CAPWN providing mental health services in wake of closure of Panhandle Health Group
GERING — For the past six months, former consumers at the Panhandle Health Group have successfully transitioned to services at the Community Action Partnership of Western Nebraska. CAPWN is one of several organizations around the Panhandle who have been working to accommodate consumers after PHG closed its doors on June 30.
The majority of the services PHG provided were picked up by CAPWN, which also has the capabilities to provide a wide range of other services, including dental and medical services. From PHG, CAPWN has taken on intensive outpatient services, outpatient substance abuse services, continuing care, medication management, mental health services, the crisis line and several other services.
“The crisis line is the big one people don’t know we have,” said Gage Stermensky, director of behavioral health.
Several providers from PHG were hired at CAPWN and brought many of their consumers with them. With the new mental health services available, CAPWN has received a mix of old and new patients as it continues to work toward the overall mental and physical well-being of its clients.
“Services-wise, it was seamless and care was not interrupted,” Stermensky said.
Many of the consumers have told staff they were not aware of all the services available at CAPWN and are now using those services for dental, housing, youth support services, primary care and WIC.
“We have people from the community who didn’t know CAPWN had this to offer,” Stermensky said. “They tell me, ’I didn’t know you had such an integrated system where you can come in on one day to get everything done at the same time.”
Executive Director Margo Hartman said those comments are not uncommon for people new to CAPWN. She said if you don’t need the services, you often are not aware of what is available until you actually need them. Once at CAPWN, they learn about a variety of programs they may qualify for, including the 340B program, which provides discounted medication to its patients and consumers who meet specific criteria.
“The 340B program has been huge for our patients,” Stermensky said. “We get feedback that they are saving a substantial amount of money.”
When PHG was struggling financially and the board of commissioners decided to close the facility, the CAPWN board decided it needed to make sure people would be able to continue receiving the services they needed. Hartman and the board looked at CAPWN’s mission about having a healthy and nurturing community.
“It would have been a huge gap for people in our community that didn’t need to exist if we could provide those services,” Harman said. “We took a look at what we could do or reconfigure to be able to do and did it.”
In just under six months, there have been some learning curves, including a different billing process. The people, however, blended in quickly.
“From what Gage tells me, the staff that came over has been built into a solid team,” Hartman said. “We’ve been able to see a lot of integration of services so people are getting all of their needs met at one time.”
The changeover has worked well enough that two new prescribers have been hired and there is talk about expanding into other areas.
“It’s been good for the agency across domains,” Stermensky said. “Consumers have been given a more robust level of service offerings.”
Some program restructuring is still happening. Stermensky is also looking at other funding possibilities, such as opioid response and expanding mental health services.
“We trying to figure out how to fit everything in, but the biggest thing is finding office space,” Stermansky said. “I see a lot more expansion down the road.”
Stermensky has been approached by many education facilities about collaborations they can do in conjunction with each other, which he is hoping to pursue soon. The key is not to over do it, Hartman said.
“The concern is that we do it well so we don’t take on too much and we’re scattered all over, she said.
Stermensky said CAPWN has highly trained clinicians that could work in any facility in the area. Hartman said while clinicians could work anywhere they want, they choose CAPWN because they have an interest in public health. With those dedicated clinicians, CAPWN isn’t going anywhere.
“We’re here to support the community,” she said. “We are part of the community and intend to stay in the community.”
For more information about all the services CAPWN has to offer, call 308-633-5766. The crisis line is available 24/7 at 308-633-5766.