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Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation funds mental health program for home-bound seniors

BCBSMA FoundationIn 2015 Hebrew SeniorLife received a three-year $525,000 grant from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation. The grant is supporting the expansion of HSL’s "Making Real Progress in Emotional Health" (MARPEH) program to patients enrolled in HSL Home Care.

The goal of MARPEH is to connect behavioral health treatment with primary care and other health services to reduce the severity of depressive symptoms in seniors and improve their overall health.

MARPEH was launched by HSL in 2013 and is led by Dr. Eran Metzger, HSL Director of Psychiatry. It is currently reaching more than 1,000 residents at all three of HSL’s senior living communities for low-income seniors.

The connection between the BCBS MA Foundation and HSL was a natural fit. The mission of the Foundation is to expand access to health care for low-income and vulnerable people in Massachusetts.

In 2014 the Foundation went through a strategic planning process and determined it would focus on behavioral health. Headed by Celeste Lee, Senior Director of Grant Making, and the Foundation’s president, Audrey Shelto, the Foundation conducted focus groups with experts in mental health, providers, payors and advocacy organizations to help define the kinds of projects that would have greatest and most measurable impact.

According to Celeste, "That led us to focusing on behavioral health integration. We took an unusual approach by only considering programs that had been up and running for at least two years. We wanted to learn what they were experiencing, measuring and finding. We were also asking for rigorous metrics and analysis that measured whether or not programs increased patient access, engagement, and satisfaction, and improved clinical outcomes. We saw that MARPEH had a lot of merit and HSL has the infrastructure in place to collect and measure data, and report outcomes."

MARPEH is the only program focused on seniors that has received Foundation funding and HSL’s reputation made a significant difference in the Foundation’s selection process.

"The MARPEH program is an amazing model," says Celeste. "Dr. Metzger is so smart and committed to the program. MARPEH is so well thought through and has taken into account many factors in its design, including cultural and social barriers. This program has huge potential for becoming an evidence- based model."

Pictured, from left to right: Celeste Lee, Sr. Director of Grantmaking, BCBSMA Foundation; Maureen Bannan, Executive Director, HSL Home and Community-Based Services; Dr. Eran Metzger, HSL Director of Psychiatry