Shift in Focus Coincides with Changing Health Care Landscape

My visits with members of the Alliance for Strong Families and Communities network allow me to witness firsthand community engagement, innovation, and many other exciting aspects of their work.

When I visit Oaks Integrated Care in mid-September, I look forward to learning more about how it recognized the trends facing the human services field, as well as the changing health care landscape, then determined how it could best fulfill its mission.

Changing its name from Twin Oaks Community Services to Oaks Integrated Care represented much more than a new name for this Mount Holly, New Jersey-based Alliance member. It represented a concerted shift in strategy to focus on the importance of both mental and physical health and how they tie together.

It is well documented that individuals living with mental illness face an increased risk of chronic medical conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and obesity, and their death rates show they die on average 25 years earlier than the general population. In fact, we know that the deaths are largely due to treatable, preventable medical conditions caused by risk factors.

Oaks Integrated Care set out to modify its treatment plans to address these issues. Treatment plans now include wellness goals and ensure every consumer is linked to a primary care provider. In addition, a variety of its programs offer substance abuse services and healthy lifestyle activities such as smoking cessation groups, nutrition planning, flu shots, and exercise groups.

Oaks Integrated Care will strengthen this new focus with an affiliation with Preferred Behavioral Health Group in October. The new partnership positions the organization to be ready when the State of New Jersey Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services transitions from contracts to a fee-for-service model in July 2017. But most importantly, the affiliation brings the opportunity for growth, giving more people access to compassionate, quality care.

This organization has made a statement with its strategy to focus on the importance of both mental and physical health and their integral connection.

This network, which individually and collectively are so much more than providers of programs and services, are working innovatively to address shifts in their operating environment that will allow them to better and more comprehensively serve their communities, and to help their neighbors reach their fullest potential. It’s inspiring for me, and it’s inspiring for the many people who support this network.

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