Developing Health™ increases access to mental health care through primary care

Jun 25, 2013 12:30 PM ET
Campaign: Health at GE
  • GE Foundation is supporting a new model that will train primary care clinicians to diagnose and treat mental illness
  • One in four Americans is diagnosed each year with mental illness, the third most common and the third costliest disease next to heart condition and stroke, and tied with cancer
  • Through this effort, Developing Health™ continues to increase access to care in underserved and underinsured communities

Diagnosing and treating behavioral health conditions is a challenge for health facilities across the United States, especially in rural areas. As part of Developing Health, the GE Foundation is supporting a new initiative—Project ECHO—that will address the growing need to expand access to mental health treatment in underserved areas.

The GE Foundation’s grant to Project ECHO will develop a new model of care in which Project ECHO staff trains and then mentors a team of primary care clinicians to provide mental health treatment at community health centers. In effect, these clinicians become primary mental health specialists working full-time in a primary care setting. The project will also train community social workers to provide care for diagnosed patients so that care can be comprehensive and community-based. This simple, straightforward approach provides mental health care to patients in a familiar setting—and ensures coordination and integration of mental health care at the primary care level.

GE Foundation president Bob Corcoran said, “Through Developing Health and our partnership with more than 100 community health centers throughout the United States, we heard firsthand about the growing need to provide mental health treatment in the local community. We were attracted to Project ECHO because it was both simple and innovative, and we believe that when it is proven, it can be scaled in a meaningful way. We believe this approach will not only improve access to mental health care but also ultimately improve overall well-being and quality of life for these patients and their families.”

Project ECHO

Project ECHO (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes) is a groundbreaking approach to increasing access to specialty care that started in New Mexico for hepatitis C treatment. It leverages technologies like video conferencing and secure Web-enabled data sharing to link specific professional expertise with clinicians in remote areas. It has now expanded beyond New Mexico and addresses additional more common, chronic and complex diseases. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation was the original funder of this innovative model.

The announcement of the GE Foundation’s investment in Project ECHO was made in Washington, D.C., where the GE Foundation partnered with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to announce the mental health expansion component of Project ECHO and the creation of the ECHO Institute to more rapidly and efficiently scale the models to new locations.

Read about Developing Health and Project Echo on the GE Citizenship website.