Massachusetts eHealth Institute doles out $1.3 million in EHR grants for behavioral health

January 4, 2016
Healthcare IT News

By Bernie Monegain

The Massachusetts eHealth Institute at MassTech, known as MeHI, has awarded more than $1.3 million in grants to 25 behavioral health providers to improve patient care, reduce healthcare costs and ensure appropriate privacy and security protection of behavioral health patient data.

MeHI awarded the grants as part of eQuality Incentive Program, an initiative that provides grants for critical technology enhancements to both behavioral health and long-term/post-acute care organizations, two sectors that are not eligible for reimbursement under the federal meaningful use electronic health records program.

The behavioral health grantees, selected in two funding rounds, manage a total of 179 facilities in 64 cities and towns across Massachusetts.

[See also: Behavioral health data 'burdens EHRs'.]

The grantee organizations serve many vulnerable populations, many which receive costly services from multiple providers across the care spectrum.

"Integration of behavioral health care and medical care is a key priority for the Commonwealth, and MeHI's investment in EHRs for behavioral health providers will help them share information with other healthcare providers," Laurance Stuntz, director of MeHI, said in a statement.

Organizations awarded the grants include behavioral healthcare facilities that provide direct care to patients with mental health or substance abuse issues, such as Family Continuity, a nonprofit mental health and social services agency with facilities in Eastern and Central Massachusetts.

"The eHealth eQuality Incentive Program comes at a key time in our agency's growth," Nina MacLean Robinson, contracts manager at Family Continuity, said in a press statement. "This grant will help us to implement an electronic health record, providing us with better clinical, financial, and operational oversight."

[See also: Epic links with behavioral health EHR.]

In April 2015, MeHI made the first round of awards, granting $973,500 to 18 providers statewide. In the second round, completed in late October, seven additional providers received $363,000 in awards. The organizations manage 53 facilities in 28 cities and towns across the Commonwealth.

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The behavioral health provider organizations selected in each round will receive payments upon reaching select milestones that demonstrate increasingly advanced use of health IT systems, totaling up to $1,320,000 to the 25 providers. The amount each grantee organization receives will vary depending on the size of the organization and the attainment of key milestones, with maximum awards for each grantee ranging from $33,000 to $82,500.

According to MeHI's 2014 survey, behavioral healthcare providers lag significantly behind other sectors in the adoption of health information technologies.

As the current eQIP grant funds are rolled out to awardees into 2016, MeHI will seek new funding routes to help behavioral health organizations to employ new technologies in their day-to-day work. MeHI is currently researching new programs with the hope of rolling them out in 2016, building on the investments made during 2015.

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