Avera receives BIG funding to increase access to mental health services

Integrated behavioral health will offer access to behavioral health within primary care.
Integrated behavioral health will offer access to behavioral health within primary care.(Avera)
Published: Feb. 3, 2023 at 5:31 PM CST
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BROOKINGS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - Behavioral health will play a larger role in primary care visits at Avera in Brookings County, thanks to a $100,000 grant awarded by the South Dakota Community Foundation.

The foundation’s Beyond Idea Grant (BIG) program aims to support community-based problem solving in South Dakota. One such problem is insufficient mental health support — while 75% of primary care visits nationwide include a mental health component, most of South Dakota lacks access to behavioral health services in any setting.

“Integrated Behavioral Health adds providers within primary care to increase access and care coordination while improving prevention and reducing barriers,” said Nikki Eining, outpatient clinical therapist for Avera Medical Group Behavioral Health in Brookings and project director for this pilot project.

“We are incredibly grateful for the grant funding to launch this project, and we are excited to see the difference it makes as this concept gains momentum,” Eining said.

By innovating via integrated behavioral health, this pilot will reduce the disparity while increasing ease and access to care. Training for clinicians will increase their knowledge about identifying and referring behavioral health concerns. Equity training will help support cultural sensitivity and referrals for Hispanic and Native American patients. Another aspect of this grant is collaboration with South Dakota State University to identify behavioral health access gaps for Native American students.

Avera Health

“Mental health has long been identified as an urgent need across South Dakota,” said Ginger Niemann, senior program officer with the South Dakota Community Foundation. “Suicidality, drug abuse and family crises are just a few of the societal problems that result. We want to prevent these tragedies and help individuals and families experience higher quality of life. Solving this issue will take innovation and collaboration. We selected this project for BIG funding because it not only will benefit Brookings County, but could serve as a model for making behavioral health services more accessible and timely for patients in need.”