For many years, Horizon House has recognized the barriers to obtaining adequate and ongoing physical health care encountered by the individuals we serve; while we have done our best to ameliorate obstacles such as lack of insurance, modifiable risk factors, and insufficient access to health services, we have been stymied by the lack of integration between the medical and behavioral health care systems. Research has shown that people with serious mental illness have disproportionately high rates of serious disease, and die an average of 25 years earlier than the general population. But thanks to a unique collaborative effort between Horizon House, Delaware Valley Community Health (DVCH – a federally qualified health center), and the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), we have launched Project HEALTH and are now making great strides towards reducing the health disparities experienced by the individuals we serve, especially those with serious mental illness and those who are homeless.
Project HEALTH includes several components, all geared towards improving the overall health and wellness of Horizon House participants. First is the Fairmount Primary Care Center at Horizon House, which is located on site at Horizon House’s primary service and administrative site at 120 S. 30th Street in Philadelphia. A partnership between DVCH, which provides the medical services, and Horizon House, which provides comprehensive behavioral health services, the Fairmount Primary Care Center at Horizon House is a new model of health care designed to improve the health status and quality of life for adults with serious mental illness, addictions, and/or histories of homelessness. The Project HEALTH team also conducts extensive education and outreach to engage Horizon House participants with medical care and wellness-related activities, such as smoking cessation, exercise, healthy eating, stress management, and recovery management. At the same time, Project HEALTH is collecting information to evaluate the impact of this exciting initiative on the overall health and wellness of the individuals served. The data, which is shared with SAMHSA, will enable us to develop best practices that can be replicated elsewhere to improve health outcomes among this population.
Project HEALTH has now been up and running since September of 2010, and hundreds of people have already taken advantage of the onsite lab services, TB testing, immunizations, lung function tests, health education, insurance eligibility and specialist referral assistance, and so much more that we have to offer.
To learn more about Project HEALTH and the issues discussed in this article, contact Horizon House’s Communications and Development at