Arkansas Behavioral Health Integration Network has been awarded a $100,000 grant through the Health Resources and Services Agency to support a year of strategic planning for The North Arkansas Referral and Consultation Network.  The NARC Network will serve patients in Stone, Cleburne, and Baxter counties. Initial collaborating partners in the planning process include Baxter County Regional Medical Center, Dr. Andy’s Family Practice, and Access Medical.

This network will increase access to mental health care in rural North Arkansas. Project Director, Kim Shuler explained, “PCPs serve as the primary managers of psychiatric conditions in about one-third of their patient panels and PCPs prescribe nearly 60% of all psychotropic medications. Even still, many PCPs lack confidence in assessment and treatment of patients with mental illness. This network will focus on increasing access to mental health services by increasing bidirectional referrals and creating a structure for more open communication among PCPs and specialty MH/BH providers. When appropriate treatment of MH/BH conditions by PCPs is in place, it will increase access in rural areas because it will lower patient costs and increase availability of treatment.”

Grant funded activities will include one year of strategic planning focused on building an integrated healthcare network that increases regional capacity for psychiatric consultation, collaborative care management, and bidirectional referrals among PCPs, psychiatric providers, and other specialty MH/BH providers. Network planning partners will develop a needs assessment, strategic plan, action plan, and sustainability plan over the 12-month grant period.