Jefferson Healthcare and Discovery Behavioral Health continue to work on a deal on how to combine mental health and primary care. (Cydney McFarland/Peninsula Daily News)

Jefferson Healthcare and Discovery Behavioral Health continue to work on a deal on how to combine mental health and primary care. (Cydney McFarland/Peninsula Daily News)

Final recommendation on combining mental health, primary care to be presented Sept. 20

PORT TOWNSEND — Jefferson Healthcare and Discovery Behavioral Health are working through an agreement on how to combine mental health and primary care with a goal to have a final recommendation presented to the hospital board Sept. 20.

“The agreement between Jefferson Healthcare and Discovery Behavioral Health is still being vetted by [legal] counsel,” said Tina Herschelman, a marketing assistant for Jefferson Healthcare.

During a meeting Aug. 16, Jefferson Healthcare CEO Mike Glenn told hospital commissioners that conversations between members of the two organizations have been going since the board approved an affiliation between Jefferson Healthcare and Discovery Behavioral Health in February.

A proposal to acquire Discovery Behavioral Health was discussed by the hospital board in February. During the Aug. 16 meeting, Glenn outlined some of the barriers to cross before providing care for both mental health and primary care patients.

Those issues included figuring out how to combine two different electronic records systems so patient information can be shared and how to manage financial reimbursement for services supplied by a critical access hospital. Jefferson Healthcare is designated a critical access hospital by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Much of the proposed agreement between Jefferson Healthcare and Discovery Behavioral has not been discussed publicly because it is still being vetted by legal counsel.

“That September meeting will essentially be the big reveal,” Herschelman said.

The meeting Sept. 20 will be at 3:30 p.m. at Jefferson Healthcare, 834 Sheridan St. The board will review a framework agreement between the two organizations that, at minimum, would require an administrative and clinical affiliation between Jefferson Healthcare and Discovery Behavioral.

While the proposed acquisition won’t be a part of that agreement, Herschelman said that is still a work in progress.

“They’re way out in front of any other attempt to combine behavioral health and primary care so there’s really no best practices for them to look at,” Herschelman said.

This comes at the end of about five months of discussions between staff at Jefferson Healthcare and Discovery Behavioral. While the integration has become more complicated, Glenn said earlier this month that the two organizations are still dedicated to combining mental and primary health care.

The plan was initially conceived due to new state standards that requires the integration of mental health services into Washington hospitals by 2020.

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Jefferson County Editor/Reporter Cydney McFarland can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 55052, or at [email protected]

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