September 20: Today on TownHall Karla Arzola, Director of Information Technology - Swedish Medical Center at HealthONE speaks with Wes Williams, VP & CIO at WellPower about the mental health center’s rebranding and recent initiatives. Why did they decide to change their name and rebrand themselves? What impacts does he see from their new services? What are his thoughts on value based care versus fee for service? From a mental health center perspective, what disruptive factors in the healthcare field is he most excited about?
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Today on This Week Health.
We've got a team of clinicians standing by anyone can contact us and, within 20 minutes be talking to a therapist or a peer supporter ? What we're looking at doing is saying how can we provide a digital means for folks to access care? When they want,
Welcome to This Week Health Community. This is TownHall a show hosted by leaders on the front lines with interviews of people making things happen in healthcare with technology. My name is Bill Russell, the creator of This Week Health, a set of channels designed to amplify great thinking to propel healthcare forward. We want to thank our show sponsors Olive, Rubrik, Trellix, Medigate and F5 in partnership with Sirius Healthcare for investing in our mission to develop the next generation of health leaders. Now onto our show.
Hello everyone. Today's guest is one of my favorite CIOs in Colorado. Wes Williams. Wes is a CIO of willpower. He has been recognized by multiple organization for his work. In 2020, he received a Denver business journal C-suite award and the Colorado CIO of the year corporate Orbi award.
And in 2021, he received a national CIO of the year Orbi nomination. He's also serving a three year appointment by the governor to Colorado's eHealth commission representing behavioral health interest. He's also a lecturer for the university of D Wes. Welcome to our town hall.
How you doing today?
Hey, I'm doing great. Thanks for having me on. Yeah.
Awesome. So I'm gonna make you do an introduction. How about that?
Great. Yeah, well, hello everyone. I'm west Williams, I'm the chief information officer at well power formerly. We were the mental health center of Denver. We did a big rebrand in may of this year.
And Carla, I'm looking forward to talking to you a little bit about the reasons behind that. I've been working in community mental health, all my life. Right. And I started out working on the clinical side, actually working as a child and family psychologist before shifting 18 years ago into health it.
And, from there I've. Been working to, try to make, I think the clinical systems I don't know, easier to use so that our staff are able to sort of focus their time and attention on the people we serve rather than on sort of administrative burden and technology.
So, yeah, I've been working on the eHealth commission for the last Four years now, I think my term runs through 20, 24. So I'm hoping that in that time we will be able to solve some of the behavioral health consent issues that get in the way of health information exchange for programs that are covered by federal privacy rules.
Around substance use disorders. So, that is my bio in a nutshell.
Well, thank you for that. We appreciate the intro and you talked about the Rebrand of your organization, The right? name used to be mental health center, and then you transitioned to WellPower and I believe it was in may of this year.
Can you talk about what was the strategy behind that?
Yeah, so there were a couple of. Elements there. The two most important ones though, were we felt like our name, formerly mental health center of Denver was a barrier to access for some folks who needed our help. Right. I think that more and more, I think people are comfortable talking about mental health and bringing that forward.
but It is still true that there's significant stigma attached with admitting to having sort of a mental health problem. And I think, there can be a sort of us versus them thinking around like, oh, this, those are people with mental illness rather than thinking around wellbeing. And like everyone, everyone has some level of wellbeing and everyone.
Could benefit from improved wellbeing. Right. And so we felt like the new name lined up with our brand promise of powering the pursuit of wellbeing. In addition, I think that mental health center of Denver is a name that, is associated with. This is what a mental health center is and does.
And sort of their standard set of services, psychiatry, psychotherapy that, all community mental health centers provide. At WellPower we felt like our service lines had really expanded and broadened. And we provide lifespan behavioral health services, that include infant mental health programs where we work from, Prenatal with pregnant moms at risk,
all the way through to when the child is five years old, working with not just the individual kid, but the diad, the parent child relationship and focusing on the health there. We have many residential programs and sort of recognize the impact of housing and the, other social determinants of health on people's health and mental illness.
And I believe, Well,Power provides 70% of the residential services that are for people. with Mental illness here in the state of Colorado. We also have a huge psychosocial rehab program aimed at getting folks either reengaged in education through for example, We have a culinary program where we teach people how to sort of work in the food service industry.
And we have supported employment programs that are aimed at getting people with mental illness, sort of back to work. One of the things that I think we, but we believe strongly is, people's having a sense of purpose and meaning in their life. Can be a strong driver for mental health and recovery.
So I think, what's had maybe the most media coverage has been our. Relationship with the mental health intersection with the criminal justice system, where we've been working with the Denver department of public safety and the Denver department of public health and environment on sort of.
Ways that mental health can be part of like a first responder. ? And so we have two different models of that, . One which has been the, initial model was a co-sponsor model where one of our licensed clinical social workers would ride along with the Denver. Police when there was a call that sounded like there may be a mental health element, in the 9 1 1 call.
And that has, been really successful and we've expanded it considerably, including co-sponsors not just with the police, but also with the R T D regional transportation district and with the fire department What we've seen is a massive. Reduction in the sort of number of arrests that would happen in response to calls like that, flipping the numbers on their head, where it used to be 97% of those calls would result in an arrest largely because the police officers just like, you know, what. let's go down to the station and work this out. . But with a Cosson there, the number is almost the opposite. It's like 3% end in arrest. And 97% are able to be resolved at the scene. And some of that is, because once we can deescalate a situation, sometimes the Cosson is able to stay there while the police go out and resume policing.
And the Cosson can help connect that person to the services. They. But then in 2020 we launched a pilot where, in 9 1, 1 calls where dispatch is able to determine that there is sort of no crime or dangerousness or weapon involved that we send a well power clinician along with a Denver health paramedic
with no police officer at all, so that program's called star or support team assisted response. And it's had great results. There was actually a study published this summer from Stanford that showed that not only were the calls from star sort of successful and deescalating this situation, but it actually.
Involved a sort of reduction in crime in the areas where star was responding. . And so I think this sort of community intervention where we think about public safety, as involving a mental health component has been really special. And it's something that we're really proud of.
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Yeah, well, I love the collaboration.
And it's interesting that you mentioned about a lot of people having experience at some point a behavioral health issue. I was reading an article. I think it was public by Deloitte. And it was saying that one out of four people have experienced some sort of health issue behavioral health issue at some point in their lives.
And I was reading, I went to your website, Randy, talk about the rebranding and this collaboration as a community. I loved the fact that he said our former name felt like it stopped sign too many people, and we wanted to change it. To a big S that says welcome you belong here. So that's amazing.
It's really interesting. And I, congratulate, your organization for all the work . I love the collaboration that you're doing, partnering, with the community, to help anyone pretty much. And so let's talk about this transition, right? Because obviously you have broadened your services and how does this process mean for your clinician and your patients?
Have you seen a difference? What shift have you noticed so far?
One of the things that I like about working at well power is like, we've got a great sort of corporate culture. . And I think as a result of that, we have a lot of folks who've worked here for a long time.
I've been at well power for 14 years. . And they're a number of folks who've been there twice as. Some of those staff were pretty attached to the old name, I have to say. And so, it was a mixed bag initially, although I think, people are now sort of on board with it and, understand sort of what we're trying to do with the new name.
I think for the people we serve, the response has been positive, ? Some folks just wanna know, are we still there for them? And we absolutely are, and I think, we will see what the sort of longer term impact is. You're right. About the statistics. Right? So it's one in four people. Have a lifetime mental illness, one in five have a current mental illness is what we're seeing. And of those folks with a mental illness, 60% of them right now don't receive any kind of professional treatment for them.
and we've got a real clinician shortage. . So, I think the affordable care act providing more healthcare coverage, especially in Colorado, Medicaid expansion state has meant that healthcare coverage, isn't the biggest barrier to treatment now, but finding a provider that is able to treat you is something that has been a struggle.
For a lot of folks I think. And we are looking to, you know, how can we change that? One of the things I was excited to talk to you a little bit about is we've currently have a grant funded program called therapy direct, ? So we applied for a two year SAMSA grant.
SAMSA is the substance abuse and mental health service administration. That's part of HHS at the federal level. And they award us a two year grant to stand up this program for behavioral health, virtual urgent care. And so what, does that mean? What that means is that we've got a team of clinicians standing by where
anyone, anyone in the sort of Denver Metro area can contact us and, within 20 minutes be talking to a therapist or a peer supporter, . Around. Whatever issue they're dealing with, . And what we want is this is the sort of exciting new component of our digital front door initiative.
? What we're looking at doing is saying how can we provide a digital means for folks to access care? When they want, my team was involved in a project we did with the Colorado health innovation community. This was. It was funded, but a bunch of different funders sort of chipped in it was the Denver foundation and rose community foundation and Colorado first.
And I wish I could remember the other one. I know Colorado access was also involved our regional accountable entity here. Anyhow, they brought a number of sort of safety net providers, like well power through sort of a human-centered sign training program. So we would learn how to use those techniques to solve problems.
And the problem we were asking about was how can we get people the help they need before they ever see us face to face? And so we talked to a lot of folks sort of focusing on a sort of younger population of folks, 18 to 30 who had. Been in treatment with us before, right. And talked to folks around like, well, what does mental health mean to you?
And where would you go for help? And what do you mean? And we learned sort of two things. One is that there's a lot of confusing misinformation, this is a group of folks who, when they start encountering problems, would. Turn towards, Google, And , use Dr.
Google to diagnose what's going on with them. But there's can be so many hits and it's overwhelming. And what do you know to trust? So trusted resources was one thing. But then the second thing is they wanted to speak to someone right away. And what they were experiencing is sort of long wait lists and lines.
. So, I remember one young man in particular told me, To get into the counseling center at school, I would have to wait like five weeks for an appointment. And like, I'm not gonna have the same problems in five weeks, which is hilarious, right. From point of how to think about it.
But it is, if what you're trying to do is meet people where they are, you that's where young people are. So we're able to stand this program up. And I think last Friday we had our biggest day yet with helping seven different people in a single day with this sort of fledgling program.
But you know, some of it is just getting the word out, right?
Absolutely. I mean, you're absolutely right. Your state of mind right now at this moment, obviously is not even gonna be the same in 20 minutes, 30 minutes an hour. So. Yeah, and it's absolutely critical that we provide help, immediate help.
And yeah, five weeks is definitely not acceptable, so that's a super exciting program. And so when was this launched? You mentioned
we launched it in may right around the same time as the rebrand.
Oh, nice. Very, very, that's extremely exciting. And so I wanna talk to you about something that you and I we kind of touched.
On it, the last conversation that we had, and it was in regards to obviously there's a lot of investments and behavioral health and to this industry and government grants. And why do you think should be the top priorities for providers and payers?
And I know that we talked about moving from a fee for service model. Value based care. Right. And I know that you had some thoughts in regards to that.
Yeah. Yes. So, I'm a big fan of, alternate payment models. And, I think For me , more of a capitated or perspective payment model kind of system where, we're reimbursed to sort of, do, what it takes to get people, the help that they need, rather than in a sort of a few.
For service model, Then maybe with value based payments, sort of on top of that, it allows you to, I think be a little more creative in solving problems and sort of be with people as you help them, one of the things that we do a lot of at well power, we have a pretty big.
Intensive case management and assertive community treatment program. And so this is sort of beyond the four walls of the clinic are case managers going out into the community and helping people connect to the resources that they need. And get the, help that they need, whether it's related to healthcare, but also social determinants of health, like housing and food.
And. In a fee for service environment, you only get reimbursed for the time. You're like face to face with the person. But like to do the work well, sometimes it involves going out and finding them. And I think a capitated model allows that. And as well as some other more creative solutions, here's an example from a story, there was a woman who we were treating who had bipolar disorder.
And as a result of that, she had a history of hospitalizations during manic episodes. Each psychiatric hospitalization costs about on average, a hundred thousand dollars, $10,000 a day for an average of 10 dates. So it's a really expensive healthcare event.
What we knew about this woman was that she did better. When she was connected with her faith community, when she was going to church on a regular basis, she generally was healthier. And yet one obstacle to going to church was feeling like she looked good. And so we would take her to get her haircut and we would pay for the haircut.
And, when you're in a risk share environment, like we were with Colorado access at that point, You can think about how many haircuts you can get for a hundred thousand dollars. And what are you, able to do creatively to keep people healthy and connected to resources that keep them healthy?
Wow. The solution was so simple, right? It was about digging more into what was the background story? Exactly. Wow. That's, that's a very moving story. And again the more I talk to you, the more impressed I am about the work that you guys are doing. And so we're kind of running out time. The last question to you is Disruptive factors in the future of behavioral health Thoughts
Yeah. So, I've been thinking more and more that artificial intelligence is going to really change how we do our work. I think behavioral health in particular has had a lot of sort of regulation and burden placed on it in terms of documentation and all the sort of this and that, that it takes, it takes us Like two hours to do , a full intake with someone and, even a crisis intervention service, we have like a 20 point assessment we have to cover, and that's not about meeting people where they are.
And I think that, what I'm optimistic about is that, AI driven solutions can help really ease that documentation burden, ease the burden of sort of finding and sifting. Through, the chart for information. And also, I think leverage, regular devices, like a smartphone to sort of keep an eye on how people are doing and how their sort of, behavioral health, vital signs are on a day to day basis.
So in all sorts of ways, I think we're right on the cusp of some big changes.
Well, that's awesome. Well, thank you Wes. Now everybody, you know why Wes is one of my favorite CIOs. He's extremely engaged and committed to our community and thank you for that, Wes. So everybody thank you for listening and have a good day.
Thanks for having me on Carla. Thank you.
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