The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services has partnered with United Providers of Health (UPOH) to address unmet health care needs of historically marginalized communities. A new $7 million statewide effort will support NCDHHS’ COVID-19 response by providing preventative health care services, connections to mental health supports and help securing non-medical drivers of health like food and housing.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected historically marginalized communities, highlighting long-standing disparities in access to quality health care,” said Kody H. Kinsley, Deputy Secretary for Behavioral Health and IDD. “By partnering with providers in these communities and tying in complementary initiatives already underway, we are enabling access to cost-effective care and addressing barriers to whole-person wellness.”
UPOH is a network of independent providers, including behavioral health agencies and primary care physician practices. Their members are community-based providers who deliver services to underserved individuals with high health care needs. Combining mental health services with primary care can reduce costs, increase quality of care and, ultimately, save lives. With this investment, individuals will maintain better health while also reducing the burden on the state’s hospitals and mitigating the spread of COVID-19. Services will be tailored to the needs of historically marginalized populations and address existing health disparities by delivering culturally competent care.
“These statewide efforts will provide a more robust link between the behavioral health system, the medical community and providers of services that address non-medical drivers of health in historically marginalized communities,” said Victor Armstrong, Director of the Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities and Substance Abuse Services.
The partnership with UPOH will also address social determinants of health by offering counseling to those dealing with the financial uncertainty posed by potential eviction or termination of utilities and by assisting community members coordinate with social services and other supports, especially those involved in the COVID-19 response.
A key component of this initiative will be engaging with peer support organizations and Historically Underutilized Businesses (HUB) representing communities who have been hard hit by the pandemic. Peer support specialists, who are individuals with lived experience, play a uniquely impactful role in behavioral health recovery and improved health outcomes. Peer-led organizations are well-positioned to integrate into and enhance existing NCDHHS efforts such as the Hope4NC Helpline (1-855-587-3463) and Community Health Worker Initiative.
This work is supported by Coronavirus Relief Funds and individuals will begin receiving services this month. More information on NCDHHS’ COVID-19 response can be found at covid19.ncdhhs.gov.