Behavioral Health Urgent Care Center Opens in Durham

(Durham, NC) – Alliance Behavioral Healthcare has developed and opened a new service in Durham to help people who are experiencing a behavioral health crisis. Much like the physical health urgent care facilities that are becoming common in our communities, a behavioral health urgent care center provides rapid assessment of an individual’s situation, routine intervention, and referrals for follow up services.

The goal of behavioral health urgent care centers is to provide a community-based option to stabilize individuals experiencing behavioral health crises in a way that reduces unnecessary trips to the emergency room, hospitalizations, and even incarcerations.

This service targets people living in Durham, Wake, Cumberland and Johnston counties who have Medicaid or no insurance. Individuals with private insurance and those who do not qualify for other public funding will pay an out-of-pocket fee.

The new center in Durham, located at 2670 Durham-Chapel Hill Boulevard, is open for adults and children Monday-Thursday from 8:00am-7:00pm, on Fridays from 8:00am-3:00pm and on Saturday from 9:00am-noon. It is operated by Carolina Outreach, a member of the Alliance Provider Network that also offers a variety of other behavioral health services at locations across the state.

“The Behavioral Health Urgent Care Center adds a critical component to the behavioral health service continuum in the Triangle region,” said Tim Brooks, Director at Carolina Outreach. “It allows us to address mental health and substance use disorder needs that fall in the considerable gap between routine office visits and emergencies that require facility or hospital-based care. I believe this program will help pave the way for more humane, effective and efficient care.”

Visitors to the Urgent Care Center have access to psychiatrists, nurses, social workers, and other clinical staff in a safe, respectful environment. In addition to a screening of any behavioral health issues that are present, they receive a medical screening, access to appropriate medications, and referrals to community-based providers and other resources for follow up care.

“Alliance is committed to giving people access to services when they need it,” said Dr. Beth Melcher, Alliance Executive Vice President for Care Management. “Behavioral health urgent care is an innovative way to be responsive to their needs and to address not just behavioral health crises, but also the overall well-being and support needs of the individual.”

Behavioral health urgent care is well-suited for someone who has experienced a recent trauma and needs help managing thoughts and feelings and planning next steps, or someone who has been barred from attending school until they receive a psychological assessment. It can help people who have stopped receiving behavioral health services and want to re-engage in treatment immediately, supply a medication bridge until an appointment for routine care can be made, or provide assistance administering an injectable medication.

This level of care is not suited for drug/alcohol detoxification, people with urgent medical needs, or when it is clear that hospitalization is required. In those cases, a hospital or one of Alliance’s Crisis and Assessment Centers is more appropriate. Locations of these facilities are available on the Alliance website at Alliance also provides an Access and Information Line where clinical staff is available 24/7 by calling (800) 510-9132.

Alliance Launches Recovery University

Alliance has launched Recovery University, a new online training gateway that allows members of the Provider Network and other community stakeholders to register for Alliance’s external trainings, including online and in-person classroom-based trainings. This curriculum is based on Alliance’s strong commitment to the concepts of recovery and self-determination. Learn more about Recovery University or access the new online training gateway.

Alliance Announces New Clinical Leadership

(Durham, NC) – Alliance Behavioral Healthcare has named two additions to the leadership of its Care Management Division. Dr. Beth Melcher, who has been serving as interim Executive Vice President for Clinical Operations for the past several months, has assumed that position on a permanent basis, and Dr. Katherine Hobbs Knutson is Alliance’s new Chief Medical Officer.

Before assuming her interim role, Dr. Melcher was Chief of Network Development and Evaluation at Alliance. Prior to coming to Alliance she served as Assistant Secretary for MH/DD/SA Services Development and then Chief Deputy Secretary for Health Services for the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. Her distinguished career also includes stints as President/CEO of Recovery Innovations North Carolina, Clinical Director for The Durham Center, and Executive Director of NAMI North Carolina. She received her Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology from the University of Pittsburgh.

Dr. Hobbs Knutson comes to Alliance from the Duke University School of Medicine Department of Psychiatry, where she practiced in emergency and outpatient settings. She is an adult and child psychiatrist with extensive clinical experience in underserved community settings treating children and adolescents with emotional and behavioral disorders that are significantly impacted by the social determinants of health.  Dr. Hobbs Knutson also has conducted health services research focused on innovative state programs to improve identification of and access to care for youth with behavioral health disorders.

“Based on my clinical and research experiences, I believe that prevention of and early targeted intervention for pediatric mental health problems would substantially improve health outcomes and lower costs across the multiple public systems serving children,” she said. “At Alliance I plan to use my roles as a clinician and administrator to fuel these changes.”

Prior to her position at Duke, Dr. Hobbs Knutson was the Director of Community Psychiatry at the Children’s National Health System in Washington, DC, and in 2014 served as Associate Medical Director for Psychiatry for the Massachusetts state Medicaid program. She is a 2007 graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine, where she received the George C. Thrasher Jr. Award for outstanding performance and ability in psychiatry.

“Under the leadership of Dr. Melcher and Dr. Hobbs Knutson I have no doubt that Alliance will only enhance its reputation for clinical excellence in the management of behavioral healthcare in North Carolina,” said Alliance CEO Rob Robinson. “Their experience and expertise are critical to our commitment to population health management to address health and well-being among the people we serve, as we shift toward proactive approaches for promoting prevention, wellness, early identification and tailored intervention programs.”

Alliance Takes National Awards for Documentary

(Durham, NC) – Alliance Behavioral Healthcare’s BECOMING Initiative has won two national Excellence in Community Communication and Outreach (ECCO) Awards for its short-form documentary called Breaking the Cycle, the story of the challenges and successes of some of the young people served by BECOMING. It can be accessed at

Alliance is the managed care organization for publicly-funded behavioral healthcare services for the people of Durham, Wake, Cumberland and Johnston counties. Alliance works with a network of almost 2200 private providers to serve the needs of 471,000 Medicaid-eligible and uninsured individuals within a total population of 1.8 million.

BECOMING was a six-year, SAMHSA-funded program that concluded in October of 2016. It targeted high-risk 16-21 year olds in Durham County who had mental health challenges and were disconnected from services and supports that would normally assist them in transitioning to adulthood. Through partnerships within the community, BECOMING connected these youth with literacy support services, coordination of clinical care, employment services, positive recreational opportunities and leadership training, with a goal of helping make these transitions more successful. By the time the grant ended the program had served over 300 young people.

The awards for Breaking the Cycle were presented during a live webcast earlier this month in a competition that included over 60 entries from across the country. The ECCO (Excellence in Community Communication and Outreach) Recognition Program is sponsored by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s Caring for Every Child’s Mental Health Campaign of the Comprehensive Community Mental Health Services for Children and Their Families Program.

The Recognition Program showcases and celebrates outstanding achievements in social marketing and communications by system of care grantees. It showcases and celebrates the talents, strengths and successes of community-based programs that incorporate systems of care for children and youth with serious mental health needs and their families.

These most recent awards are part of seven national awards captured by BECOMING for communications and outreach during the six-year run of the program, including the prestigious People’s Choice Award in 2015.

Public Input Sought on DHHS Design for Medicaid Managed Care

The Department of Health and Human Services has released a detailed proposed program design for transforming the state Medicaid and NC Health Choice programs to managed care. DHHS issued its proposed program design to ensure stakeholders have an opportunity to comment on managed care specifics. Comments are being accepted through Sept. 8, 2017. Learn more.

Alliance Teams with CASA to Increase Affordable Housing

(Durham, NC) – Alliance Behavioral Healthcare has continued its history of working collaboratively with its public, private and non-profit partners to increase affordable housing capacity for people with mental health issues by providing $250,000 in financing to a local non-profit developer.

Alliance is the managed care organization for publicly-funded behavioral healthcare services for the people of Durham, Wake, Cumberland and Johnston counties. Alliance works with a network of almost 2200 private providers to serve the needs of 471,000 Medicaid-eligible and uninsured individuals within a total population of 1.8 million, and is the first MCO in the state to contribute funds to the purchase of property for people living with mental health challenges.

Alliance knows that investing in supportive housing promotes an improved quality of life and better treatment outcomes for these individuals. This investment goes beyond simply paying someone’s rent – it takes a holistic view ranging from honoring where someone chooses to live, to maintaining their housing after rental assistance ends. Like other “social determinants of health” – the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age – safe, stable housing provides a critical foundation for recovery.

“Our investment recognizes the importance of creating greater access to permanent, affordable housing for people with mental health conditions,” said Ann Oshel, head of Community Relations at Alliance. “This helps make it possible for a group of people who are often vulnerable to homelessness to live successfully in their communities.”

The contribution was made to CASA, a non-profit housing developer and property manager, in support of its largest acquisition of housing units to date – 44 units at Underwood Apartments on Underwood Avenue and the 35-unit Maplewood Apartments on West Chapel Hill Road, both in Durham. Thirteen of the apartments will be reserved for individuals receiving services managed by Alliance, with an additional eight units reserved for veterans. CASA plans to make improvements at both properties, including fencing, landscaping, parking lot repairs, and replacement of aging staircases and balconies. This brings CASA’s inventory of affordable apartment homes to 490 units in Durham, Wake and Orange counties.
The apartments will primarily target people earning 50 percent of the area median income or less, which is $25,700 for one person. Leases for current tenants will be honored, and measures are in place to ensure that the units remain affordable over time.

“These homes will continue to serve Durham renters with limited incomes for many more years to come,” said CASA CEO Debra King. “This acquisition allows us to preserve the Underwood and Maplewood apartments as affordable rental housing in Durham and gives the current tenants assurance that their rent will remain affordable.”

Others partnering with Alliance and CASA in the purchase of these 79 apartments include North State Bank, BB&T, North Carolina Housing Finance Agency, Federal Home Loan Bank of Atlanta, and the City of Durham.

In addition to this investment, in 2016 Alliance provided over $682,000 in rental assistance to 425 individuals and families, moving them out of homelessness and helping them avoid eviction. Individuals who are receiving services managed by Alliance can access housing assistance through their provider.

Alliance Board Vacancies

There are currently five open positions on the Alliance Board of Directors, two each for Wake and Cumberland County residents and one for a Johnston County resident. Candidates for Board membership must be residents of the county they would be representing and at least 18 years of age. Employees or family member of employees or volunteers of provider agencies or vendors contracted with Alliance, or persons with a financial interest or ownership in any such agency or vendor, are not eligible to serve. Learn more about the Alliance Board and how to apply for membership.

Hope4NC and Alliance Support Cumberland County Citizens Affected by Hurricane Matthew

(Fayetteville, NC) – Seven months after Hurricane Matthew slammed into Cumberland County, many families are still displaced from their homes and waiting for repairs to be completed. Through a partnership with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Alliance Behavioral Healthcare is providing five crisis outreach teams to canvas neighborhoods, hotels, rentals and shelters to provide disaster crisis counseling to those affected by the flood.

The Crisis Counseling Assistance and Training Program, also known as Hope4NC, offers short-term interventions that include the coping strategies and emotional support disaster survivors need to help manage the stress of their current situations. While the program doesn’t provide home repairs, it can refer citizens to a variety of helping resources in the community that are essential to putting their lives and homes back together.

The crisis counselors that staff Hope4NC understand that many households are in various stages of repair. “It can be devastating to lose everything and still have the daily struggle of living outside your home seven months later,” says Disaster Recovery Coordinator Laressa Witt. “Added to the financial burden of starting all over, it can be very stressful for families.”  Witt points out the importance of the confidential place the program provides for people to talk about their struggles and hardships. “It’s amazing how therapeutic it can be to have someone listen and empathize with you.”

According to FEMA there are four emotional stages of disaster, moving from the heroic phase to the honeymoon phase to the disillusionment phase and finally to the reconstruction phase. Witt says that many in Cumberland County are in the disillusionment phase due to the length of time it has taken to recover from the October weather. “Many folks say they had no idea it would take this long to return to their homes, and this has added to their emotional fatigue. Most tell us that they are simply ‘tired.’”

Cumberland County citizens still displaced from their homes or still experiencing the emotional effects of the storm call the Hope4NC Hotline at (919) 407-2942.

Alliance and WakeMed Health and Hospitals Offer Mental Health First Aid Training to Elected Officials in Wake County

Alliance is partnering with WakeMed Health and Hospitals, Duke Raleigh Hospital, UNC REX, and the UNC-CH School of Social Work to train elected officials in Wake County in Mental Health First Aid. The 8-hour training will be held on May 19 at WakeMed North Hospital in Raleigh.

1 in 5 Americans has a mental illness, but many are reluctant to seek help or might not know where to turn for care. Unlike physical conditions, symptoms of mental health and substance use problems can be difficult to detect. For friends and family members, it can be hard to know when and how to step in. As a result, those in need of mental health services often do not get them until it is too late.

Just as knowing CPR helps even those without clinical training assist an individual having a heart attack, Mental Health First Aid training allows members of the public to better identify, understand and respond to signs of mental illnesses. Trainees learn a 5-step action plan that guides them through the process of reaching out and offering appropriate support.

In just ten years, the Mental Health First Aid program has certified over 1,000,000 people nationally, including over 36,000 in North Carolina, most in the Southeast and #6 in the country. During the past year alone Alliance trained 824 individuals in Adult Mental Health First Aid, and 84 in Youth Mental Health First Aid, a specialized version of the training for adults who come in frequent contact with young people.

Among those scheduled to participate in this week’s training are members of state and local government and executive leadership from WakeMed Health and Hospitals, UNC REX and Duke Raleigh Hospital.